JAKARTA — A two-year-old Indonesian boy who smokes about 40 cigarettes a day will have specialist treatment next week to wean him off his habit, officials said Friday.
Little Ardi Rizal became an Internet sensation and unwitting poster-boy for Indonesia’s failure to regulate smoking after a video of him greedily puffing on a cigarette appeared online last month.
“The boy was able to stop smoking for about two hours after we distracted his attention with toys,” the chairman of the National Commission for Child Protection, Seto Mulyadi, told AFP.
He said a multi-disciplinary team including a paediatrician and a psychiatrist would be brought in to treat Ardi next week.
“I’m pretty sure that with serious treatment, the boy will be able to gradually quit this bad habit,” he said.
The toddler from Sumatra island reportedly became a nicotine addict after his father gave him his first cigarette at just 18 months old.
His parents say he throws tantrums and beats his head against a wall if denied cigarettes, but his father nonetheless insists he is “healthy”.
The 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.
Another Indonesian child smoker, four-year-old Sandi Adi Susanto from Java island, caused a similar international stir when a video of him smoking and swearing went viral on the Internet earlier this year.
Mulyadi said child welfare officials had succeeded in helping Sandi to cut back but he still smoked regularly.
Cigarette consumption in the Southeast Asian archipelago of some 240 million people soared 47 percent in the 1990s, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Almost 70 percent of men over 20 years of age smoke and regular smoking among women almost tripled to 4.5 percent between 1995 and 2004, it said. Some 3.2 percent of three- to 15-year-olds are regular smokers, according to Indonesian figures.
The WHO says about 400,000 Indonesians die every year from smoking-related illnesses.