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Vital Stories

Where Art Meets Advocacy: #TheyLieWeDie series takes off in Jakarta, Indonesia

“I’m moving away from tobacco industry sponsorship,” Indonesian singer Eva Celia told a group of university students at Kandang Jurank Doank, a popular gathering place in Jakarta. “I’ve tried to reject any offers from the industry when they asked me to work with them.”

As part of the #TheyLieWeDie series, started in Jakarta in March 2018 in support by Vital Strategies, 20 students from five universities in Jakarta gathered for “The Art of Social Change,” a workshop to take action against the tobacco industry and its influence. The two-day workshop provided students with the tools to effectively develop and launch their own anti-tobacco campaign through the arts and the social change movement.

More than 469,000 children and 53 million adults in Indonesia use tobacco every day, according to the Tobacco Atlas, harming the health, economy and spirit of the country. As the world’s second largest tobacco market, the prevalence of tobacco use in Indonesia- particularly from Indonesian men who start using tobacco products as young as twelve years old – has given the tobacco industry a stronghold in the region, allowing the industry to aggressively market their products to women and youth.

Participants, speakers, and mentors gather for “The Art of Social Change” workshop at Kandang Jurank Doank in Jakarta

#TheyLieWeDie is an anti-tobacco industry campaign led by Indonesia youth that aims to expose the tobacco industry’s lies and deception through its use of manipulative marketing tactics aimed at drawing in more smokers. On the first day of the workshop, students heard from activists and actors, filmmakers, singers (like Eva Celia), and an illustrator, on the various ways students can use the arts to create an effective anti-industry tobacco control campaign. Activist Surya Sahetapy gave a presentation on how to start a social campaign and shed light on how to be a campaigner for issues like tobacco control. On the second day, students and their mentors presented to the workshop facilitators the #TheyLieWeDie events they would like to run on their campuses, including a mural festival and an anti-industry festival.

Throughout April and May, a #TheyLieWeDie branded van toured five campuses in Jakarta, spreading arts and education and inspiring a new generation of advocates to use their voices for change. At the University of Indonesia, 120 students of public health participated in a “Drop Dead” action, with each student representing one of the 120 Indonesians who died because of cigarettes during the 15-minute event. The university also hosted an art exhibition where students from four universities (Pelita Harapan University, Jakarta State University, Bina Nusantara University, and Multimedia Nusantara University) involved in the #TheyLieWeDie Campus Roadshow presented works to highlight the dangers of tobacco and the health-harming actions of the tobacco industry.

“With the challenges and the interference from Big Tobacco, we need to be strong mentally and physically,” said Rita, a student from Pelita Harapan University. “We shall not give up.”

For more updates from the roadshow, follow the hashtag #TheyLieWeDie on Twitter or website