Health cigarettes and fitness in Indonesia

Oh ev'ry night and every day
A little piece of you is falling away
But lift your face the Western Way
Build your muscles as your body decays…
~Freddy Mercury

Like many expats living in Jakarta I go to a gym. There aren’t many other options for sport in this crazy city. Sure you can go cycling or running or something, but half an hour panting and puffing outside in central Jakarta is probably the equivalent to smoking half a pack of Marlboros because of the terrible pollution. You’d actually be doing more
harm to yourself than good! Not only that but it’s bloody hot. An air-conditioned gym is a far better bet.

Okay, so I arrive at the gym early-evening as usual, only this time there are a couple of SPG (sales promotion girls) by the entrance who, for reasons I can’t quite put my finger on, grab my immediate attention.

Indonesia SPG (sales promotion girls) at gym
A lot of companies in Indonesia make use of sales promotion girls. They sell things as varied as laptops, cigarettes, TVs and other electronics, and of course cars. Occasionally they turn up at my gym to sell expensive body building supplements, vitamins and energy drinks.

Anyway, one of the girls catches my eye and approaches me:

Her: “Hello Sir!” (Sir! Me? wtf?)
Me: “Hello juga, dan kamu sudah makan?” (Hello, and have you eaten yet?)

She laughs, reaches into a box on the table and takes a small packet out. Oh shit! Bloody useless vitamins again, I’m thinking, but then whips out a fag and offers it to me!

Me: Apa itu! (what’s that?!)
Her: Healthy cigarette (yes, she says it in English)
Me: Healthy cigarette? Tidak lah, I don’t need one of those (thinking it’s one of those health cigs you don’t actually light up)
Her: No. You smoke it like real cigarette. Sehat sekali. Baik untuk anda! (very healthy. It’s good for you!)

Wtf, I’ve heard a lot of nonsense over the years but this takes the biscuit – being offered a fag at the gym – and to get healthy!

She smiles at me. I smile back.

Her: For you free. Coba...(try it...)

I thank her, grab the promotional leaflet and go outside and light up. It tastes a lot like a standard Gudang Garam clove cigarette – bloody strong in other words, and with the nicotine and tar levels way off the radar screen.

According to the leaflet, these healthy cigarettes offer all sorts of incredible health benefits:

Health cigarettes leaflet(Click on image to read the leaflet)
- Antibiotic properties
- Cleansing properties (to rid the body of toxins in the mouth, nose and ears)
- Normalizes cholesterol levels and blood sugar levels
- Maintains good health and improves male virility! (wtf!!!)

And most bizarrely of all this:
- Helps lessen the symptoms of flu and asthma and GOOD FOR THE CAPACITY OF THE LUNGS (wtf!)

Finishing off the fag I don’t feel half bad and head over to the swimming pool to do a few lengths.

I jump in at the deep end as usual, and curious to see if the fags really do have magical properties, I see how long I can stay under the water. After a few months of practice I’ve got it up to 3 minutes but my diver’s watch already shows I’m up to 3 minutes and my lungs feel so strong I feel I could blow up a hot air balloon if someone asked me!

Finally after 10 minutes I surface!

Fucking wonder fags! I leg it back to the gym to get meself a few packs, but to my horror the two sales promotion girls aren’t there anymore!

I ask around and noone else says they even saw them.

Weird. Weird as hell. Well, you’ve got to make the most of things in this wacky city while you can. Delay it for just a moment too long and the opportunity will be lost like the way that sand slips through your hands…


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