An exploration of the factors that influence smoking amongst Indonesian Pesantren (Islamic boarding school) students and teachers
: an ethnographic study

  • Mohamad Avicenna

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This thesis explores the factors that influence smoking behaviours amongst Indonesian Pesantren (Islamic Boarding Schools) santri (students) and kyai (Islamic Scholar, Teacher, or Leader). Indonesia is the fourth most populous country in the world and also home to the largest Muslim population in the world. It has the highest male smoking prevalence rates in the world and the highest in Muslim countries.

Specifically, it has examined how religious practices, school environments, and personal beliefs affect smoking behaviours. The study adopted an ethnographic approach to data collection in three pesantren; Traditional (Salafiyah), Modern (Khalafiyah) and one that is a combination of both. The thesis documents the findings from semi-structured interviews conducted with 49 participants (students and teachers). Participant observation and documentary analysis are used to provide further insights into smoking behaviours.

The findings suggest that the practice of gifting cigarettes to pesantren teachers was common. Positive beliefs about smoking, particularly herbal cigarettes, was another factor that greatly influenced pesantren teachers and students smoking behaviours. They believed that smoking herbal cigarettes could provide health benefits, maintaining health, curing diseases, and reducing addiction. Furthermore, smoking was believed to provide smokers with financial benefits. Religiosity was also found to significantly influence pesantren teachers and santri to smoke. Smoker participants believed that smoking-related diseases and death was mostly determined by Allah, and humans had very passive role to control their health states.

In contrast to the previous findings, however, the findings of the current study challenge a theory that states religion can be a protective factor against tobacco use. The thesis suggests there is a need to review smoke-free policies and develop pesantren specific public health campaigns that incorporate culturally specific approaches combined with conventional public health methods. It makes an original contribution to knowledge about the role of gifting, religiosity, and health beliefs on the smoking behaviours of santri (students) and Kyai (Islamic Scholar, Teacher, or Leader) in pesantren.
Date of Award2023
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorBerenice Golding (Main Supervisor) & Graham Gibbs (Co-Supervisor)

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