As smoking regulations in North America get stricter, the number of smokers, especially among younger generations, are in decline. If Mad Men taught us anything, it’s that smoking is not nearly as common as it used to be. In some circles, it can even be seen as taboo. Considering these changing habits of North Americans, it’s incredibly startling to see the recent series by Toronto based photographer Michelle Siu. For Marlboro Boys, she travelled to Indonesia to document the shocking reality of young smokers.
It’s easy to begin smoking when it’s presence is everywhere. As the fifth largest tobacco market in the world, Indonesians are bombarded with ever-present advertising targeting youth and easy access to cheap cigarettes (about one dollar a pack). The industry is closely tied to the country’s economy and that industry relies on consumption. What’s most alarming, is that the habit is forming early. According to a recent study, the number of children smokers aged 10 to 14 has doubled over the past 20 years, and has tripled for those ages five to nine.