By Enrico Aditjondro, Associate Director of Vital Strategies’ Policy Advocacy and Communication team in Southeast Asia
During the pandemic, the Ministry of Health in Indonesia has continued to encourage people to follow the recommended protocols to keep healthy: avoid crowds; follow protective measures such as wearing masks; stop health-harming behaviors like smoking, since smoking can increase the risk of severe COVID-19 and worsen a person’s health condition; and importantly, get vaccinated.
But in Indonesia, a country that was recently ranked in the bottom five of the 80 countries reviewed in the tobacco industry watchdog, STOP’s 2021 Global Tobacco Industry Interference Index, it isn’t uncommon to see people light up cigarettes just minutes after receiving their vaccines or in some cases even at a vaccine center.
This year, LC19 and Vital Strategies partnered with LaporCovid-19 (LC19), to build awareness about the risks of smoking and COVID-19, using social media to campaign and inform people about the links between smoking and the deadly virus. LC19 is Indonesia’s leading COVID-19 advocacy group and frequently uses a citizen journalism approach in much of its work–an approach that led to the discovery of people smoking at the largest COVID-19 vaccine center in Jakarta in July this year.
Through the collaboration, LC19 and Vital Strategies produced memes and videos on a number of issues—from information on lung health to tips to quit smoking to guidance on COVID-19 health protocols. The social media content developed through the partnership was posted on both LC19’s Instagram account as well as #SuaraTanpaRokok (#VoicesWithoutCigarettes), a social media campaign and advocacy channel supported by Vital Strategies since 2015.
On July 22, 2021, a video was posted capturing people smoking at the largest vaccination center in the city—some before getting vaccinated and some after. The video went viral and triggered a chain reaction, with approximately 15,000 viewers within the first week. Smoking at vaccination centers is prohibited in Jakarta. Not only did these actions expose vaccine seekers who are taking steps to protect their health to secondhand smoke, which puts their health at risk, it triggered a response by viewers to report it to JAKI, which is Jakarta’s Smart City app that monitors and responds to citizen reporting. Soon, the report reached the Department of Health and was later forwarded to the city’s Smoke-Free Taskforce. LC19 and our social media followers helped amplify the report by verifying and reposting the video while tagging all the relevant people and departments.
A week after continuous complaints from users, the Department of Health and the Smoke-Free Taskforce visited the vaccination site. While officials did not find any smokers during their visit that day, they spoke to the crowd in detail about the smoke-free law and the health harms of smoking in relation to COVID-19. The officials put up “No Smoking” stickers in many spots at the vaccine center and promised to monitor further.
The venue, which was a sports complex, is no longer used as a vaccination center—but the message resonates around the city: People don’t want smoky vaccine centers in Jakarta, or anywhere.
Read more about Vital Strategies’ work in tobacco control.
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