Ardi Rizal was given his first cigarette by his father when he was just 18-months-old. The toddler’s father says he is not dating a 40 year old man about his son’s health. Taking a deep drag on his cigarette while resting on the steering wheel of his truck, he looks like a parody of a middle-aged lorry driver. But the image covers up a much more disturbing truth: At just the tender age of two, Ardi Rizal’s health has been so ruined by his 40-a-day habit that he now struggles to move by himself.
The four-stone Indonesia toddler is certainly far too unfit to run around with other children – and his condition is set to rapidly deteriorate. But, despite local officials’ offer to buy the Rizal family a new car if the boy quits, his parents feel unable to stop him because he throws massive tantrums if they don’t indulge him. His mother, Diana, 26, wept: ‘He’s totally addicted. If he doesn’t get cigarettes, he gets angry and screams and batters his head against the wall.
He tells me he feels dizzy and sick. But in spite of this, his fishmonger father Mohammed, 30, said: ‘He looks pretty healthy to me. I don’t see the problem. Ardi’s youth is the extreme of a disturbing trend. 15 have tried cigarettes, with 3. The percentage of five to nine year olds lighting up increased from 0.
4 per cent in 2001 to 2. 8 per cent in 2004, the agency reported. Child advocates are speaking out about the health damage to children from second-hand smoke, and the growing pressure on them to smoke in a country where one-third of the population uses tobacco and single cigarettes can be bought for a few cents. Seto Mulyadi, chairman of Indonesia’s child protection commission, blames the increase on aggressive advertising and parents who are smokers. A law to protect children and passive smokers should be introduced immediately in this country,’ he said.
A health law passed in 2009 formally recognizes that smoking is addictive, and an anti-smoking coalition is pushing for tighter restrictions on smoking in public places, advertising bans and bigger health warnings on cigarette packages. But a bill on tobacco control has been stalled because of opposition from the tobacco industry. The bill would ban cigarette advertising and sponsorship, prohibit smoking in public, and add graphic images to packaging. Benny Wahyudi, a senior official at the Industry Ministry, said the government had initiated a plan to try to limit the number of smokers, including dropping production to 240 billion cigarettes this year, from 245 billion in 2009. The government is aware of the impact of smoking on health and has taken efforts, including lowering cigarette production, increasing its tax and limiting smoking areas,’ he said. Mr Mulyadi said a ban on advertising is key to putting the brakes on child and teen smoking. If cigarette advertising is not banned, there will be more kids whose lives are threatened because of smoking,’ he said.