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May Wilkerson May Wilkerson

Photos: “Marlboro Boys” Depicts Children Smoking in Indonesia


Canadian photographer Michelle Siu documents kids smoking in a country where most people use tobacco—and many start in early childhood.

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As smoking rates decline in the US and many parts of the globe, the smoking rate in Indonesia continues to soar. In fact, over 60% of the country’s male population smokes or otherwise uses tobacco regularly. The country’s economy is heavily dependent upon its booming tobacco industry, so many Indonesians subsist off tobacco farming and are exposed to cigarettes at an early age. Children have been known to take up the habit as young as four.

Canadian photographer Michelle Siu documents this phenomenon in a series of photographs (below), called Marlboro’s Boys. “Tobacco consumption in Indonesia is a complex issue as it is intertwined in the country culturally, politically and economically,” says Siu. “You can’t take 10 steps before seeing a tobacco advertisement or someone smoking.”

The series illustrates children’s loss of innocence, as she explains: “They inhale and exhale like old men that have been smoking for years–some of them have been smoking two packs a day since they were little kids.”

Dihan Muhamad, who used to smoke up to two packs of cigarettes a day before cutting down, poses for a photo as he smokes while his mother breast feeds his younger brother at their home in the village near the town of Garut Read more: Marlboro Boys: Underage Smoking in Indonesia - LightBox http://lightbox.time.com/2014/08/18/indonesia-smoking-child-cigarette-tobacco-marlboro/#ixzz3AmL5LUic

Dihan Muhamad “used to smoke up to two packs of cigarettes a day before cutting down.” Here he is with his mother and baby brother in a village near the town of Garut.

Children smoke on a bus home from school in Jakarta. There are smoking regulations in many public places but little enforcement.

Children smoke on a bus home from school in Jakarta. There are smoking regulations in many public places but little enforcement.

Ilham Hadi, a third-grader who has smoked up to two packs a day since he was four, in his bedroom in Sukabumi.

Ilham Hadi, a third-grader who has smoked up to two packs a day since he was four, in his bedroom in Sukabumi.

Ompong, which means "toothless," posing for a photograph in South Jakarta.

Ompong, which means “toothless,” posing for a photograph in South Jakarta.

Andika Prasetyo, who smokes about a pack a day, outside an internet cafe in Depok, West Java.

Andika Prasetyo, who smokes about a pack a day, outside an internet cafe in Depok, West Java.

 

Kids buy single cigarettes and light them at a kiosk after school in Jakarta. Kiosks like this, which don't ask for age ID, are often in close proximity to schools.

Kids buy single cigarettes and light them at a kiosk after school in Jakarta. Kiosks like this, which don’t ask for age ID, are often in close proximity to schools.