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February 12, 2018

“The River is Our Canvas”—Indonesia’s first anti-industry action in 2018

Across Indonesia, Vital Strategies and local activists are taking on an industry responsible for the deaths of more than 217,000 Indonesians every year. In villages, on walls and rooftops, and in mini-buses, the #TheyLieWeDie anti-industry social marketing campaign is drawing attention to the tactics the tobacco industry uses to hook future generations of Indonesians into using their products.

In January, #TheyLieWeDie travelled to Banjarmasin, South Kalimantan, to once again call out industry deception and advocate for strong anti-tobacco policies. Working with the provincial administration, the Indonesia Institute for Social Development, and students from the Youth Generation of Tobacco Control and the University of Technology Sydney, Australia, we coordinated public and social media events that built public support for smoke-free laws and bans on tobacco advertising, especially towards women and young people.

We kicked off work in the city with a workshop for high school students. Our staff helped participants produce a video in which students asked 50 people to Imagine what Banjarmasin would be like without cigarettes.

Banjarmasin is known as the “City of a Thousand Rivers,” and we wanted to bring that theme into our work. So the students from Sydney designed tobacco control messages to place on boats, traders’ hats, murals and billboards. The traders on the floating markets of the Martapura River donned the hats and allowed us to use the designs on their traditional boats.

All of our activities were promoted through #KadaHandakRokok (“Say No to Cigarettes”). We created a giant neon sign of #KadaHandakRokok and placed it on top of the most recognizable building in the city, the Menara Pandang.

The campaign was launched with a two-day festival attended by the mayor, the head of provincial Department of Health, and representatives of the governor. During the festival, 50 colorful boats showcased their roofs as they moved about in formation.

Along with this celebration, a group of students participated in a bolder and more provocative act. They went around to several Big Tobacco offices, as well as shopping malls, cafés and schools where smoking was still common and heavily promoted by the industry. Then, they put on gas masks and held a #TheyLieWeDie banner in front of the public. In the last three months, the #TheyLieWeDie masked squad has occupied three Big Tobacco spots in Indonesian cities.

The campaign received a major boost when the city encouraged the Imam of Banjarmasin’s largest mosque to deliver an anti-smoking sermon during Friday prayers.

Filming during the #TheLieWeDie Video Advocacy Worksop
UTS students and local artists painted hats for women traders at the floating market.
Boat roofs designed by UTS students, imagining a smoke-free Banjarmasin.

A #KadaHandakRokok murals.
Filming during the #TheyLieWeDie Video Advocacy Workshop
The #TheyLieWeDie Masked Squad demonstrates in a public space.

The people of Banjarmasin seem to have embraced #KadaHandakRokok, which became the number one trending topic in the city on Twitter during the launch. To this day, the hashtag continues to circulate on Twitter, with people posting photos and memes along with it.

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