Indonesia’s Smoking Toddler Cuts Back To 15-a-day

A chain-smoking Indonesian toddler has cut back to 15 cigarettes a day thanks to “therapy focused on playing”, a child welfare official said Tuesday.

Two-year-old Ardi Rizal shocked the world when a video of him smoking a cigarette appeared on the Internet last month and drew attention to Indonesia’s failure to regulate the tobacco industry.

Six months after his father gave him his first cigarette, the overweight boy from Sumatra island was smoking 40 a day and threw violent tantrums if his addiction was not satisfied. Child welfare officials called in to try to wean the toddler off cigarettes said that when they played with him he did not smoke as much.

“The boy has been able to reduce his cigarette intake significantly, very quickly, after the treatment,” National Commission for Child Protection chairman Seto Mulyadi told AFP.

“The therapy focused on playing — we occupied him with toys so that he forgets cigarettes,” he said.

Ardi developed his nicotine addiction while spending his days at a traditional market where both of his parents worked, Mulyadi said. Simple toys and someone to play with were enough to take his mind off cigarettes, at least for a while. The therapists also encouraged Ardi to associate cigarettes with bad things.

“The boy likes singing songs so we tell him that if he continues smoking, he won’t be able to be a singer one day, and it works,” Mulyadi said.

“It’s much easier to help kids like him than teenage tobacco addicts.”

Ardi’s case has highlighted the tobacco industry’s aggressive marketing to women and children in developing countries like Indonesia, where regulations are weak and many people do not know that smoking is dangerous. Cigarette consumption in the Southeast Asian archipelago of some 240 million people soared 47 percent in the 1990s, according to the World Health Organization.

Indonesia’s biggest cigarette manufacturer, PT HM Sampoerna, is an affiliate of Philip Morris International.

AFP

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