A interval drama concerning the fortunes of an Indonesian household within the clove cigarette (kretek) enterprise is the newest streaming hit from Asia.
Primarily based on a preferred novel, “Cigarette Lady” was filmed in Java towards a backdrop of tobacco plantations, warehouses, and classic kretek factories. The five-episode collection has “a ton of smoking,” wrote one reviewer.
Following its debut on Netflix final November, “Cigarette Lady” was on the streaming platform’s non-English, global prime ten record for 2 consecutive weeks. The collection additionally topped the weekly record of hottest streaming exhibits in Indonesia.
Does kretek nostalgia undercut the nation’s marketing campaign to curb tobacco use?
A brand new report on tobacco trends printed by the World Well being Group (WHO) highlights the much less glamorous elements of cigarette smoking in Indonesia. Southeast Asia had the best rate of tobacco consumption of any area, pushed primarily by the Indonesian market, which ranks second after China.
Globally, nicotine use is declining. Nevertheless, smoking in Indonesia has risen precipitously within the final 20 years, particularly amongst males. In response to the WHO report, Indonesian males had the best charge of tobacco use at 73.6 p.c, up from round 58.4 p.c in 2000.
Clove cigarettes dominate the Indonesian market, accounting for 90 p.c of gross sales. Kreteks have been first offered within the Eighties as a remedy for lung illnesses like bronchial asthma and subsequently gained a status as a much less poisonous, “natural” various to nicotine cigarettes.
“The false picture of those merchandise as clear, pure, and safer than common cigarettes appears to draw some younger individuals who may in any other case not begin smoking,” observed the American Most cancers Society after clove cigarettes gained popularity with youngsters and faculty college students in California in the course of the Eighties.
Inside Indonesian society, nevertheless, kreteks are considered extra favorably. Mark Hanusz, creator of “Kretek: The Tradition and Heritage of Indonesia’s Clove Cigarettes,” told an trade publication that the indigenous product was “very a lot a nationwide image in addition to a supply of satisfaction.”
“Cigarette Lady” delves into the subculture of the clove cigarette trade by means of a flavor-obsessed lead character. “The key of kretek is in its sauce,” says Dasiyah, performed by Indonesian film star Dian Sastrowardoyo. Dasiyah is set to shatter gender limitations in an trade the place girls “can solely be rollers” by experimenting with aromas within the forbidden “sauce room.”
The “sauce” recipe is usually a carefully guarded secret and will decide “the success or failure of a kretek model available on the market,” explained Monika Arnez, a Southeast Asia scholar on the College of Hamburg.
Kretek gross sales boomed within the early Eighties when machine-made cigarettes flooded the market, surpassing the hand-rolled varieties. Indonesia’s wealthiest household, the Hartonos, made their fortune within the clove cigarette enterprise. Their model Djarum popularized kreteks utilizing “aggressive” advertising campaigns.
Tobacco entrepreneurs have been criticized for hard-knuckle techniques and “pointless interplay” with the federal government. The trade “works to defeat, dilute and delay efficient tobacco management measures,” wrote Mary Assunta, principal author of the World Tobacco Business Interference Index.
The tobacco trade in Indonesia thrives because of the low worth level of cigarettes: a pack of kreteks retails for about $1. A 2020 Universitas Brawijaya study by the School of Medication identified that “the cigarette tax in Indonesia is way beneath the WHO advice of 70% of retail worth,” making it a gorgeous market globally for cigarette producers.
The straightforward availability of kreteks has had far-reaching social penalties for Indonesia, which has one of many highest charges of smoking amongst children and adolescents. The median age of lung most cancers sufferers is youthful than in every other nation, with the Indonesian Society of Respirology blaming the “early onset of carcinogens” introduced on by underage smoking.
But the enchantment of kreteks stays undimmed. Clove cigarettes are an entrenched a part of the cultural panorama, explained Kamila Andini, co-director of “Cigarette Lady.”
“Like rice and occasional, tobacco is likely one of the textures of Indonesia,” she stated.