When I was 2-years-old I was still licking windows and chewing on bed skirts (I know, I know…some things never change), but this badass Indonesian butterball can work a cigarette like a grand master pimp.
This is 2-year-old Ardi Rizal and he smokes up to 40 ciggies a day thanks to his dad who gave him his first taste of nicotine at 14-months-old. I don’t know whether to weep for his tiny lungs, or laugh at the thought of him rolling up to a group of smokers in his toy truk to ask them for a Marlboro Red.
A video of a four-year-old Indonesian boy blowing smoke rings appeared briefly on YouTube in March, prompting outrage before it was removed from the site.
Ardi’s mother says that her son’s habit costs the family around $5.50 a day and he only smokes one brand. Ardi’s mother cried as she said, “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.”
Yeah, that shit isn’t fucking designed to be addictive from day one. Not at all!
As surreal as this all is, and I admit to having felt an impulse to chuckle upon first hearing all of this, it’s an absolute tragedy when Ardi reaches for a pack of cigs after drinking from his mom’s tete or asks her for a light while she changes his diaper.
The government has agreed to give Ardi’s family a new car if he quits. But Ardi’s father, who is about to be named Person of the Century by the tobacco companies any minute now, doesn’t know what the big deal is.
“He looks pretty healthy to me. I don’t see the problem.” Just so you know, Ardi’s father is legally blind and has no nostrils. Or so I friggin’ hope.
I don’t see the problem either. So what if he’ll get a voice box installed in his froat before he can make complete sentences. Regular talking is overrated! So he’ll probably start craving a little whiskey with his cigarette. Bottom shelf booze is cheaper than baby food!
But seriously, the family should take that car from the government and drive Ardi into the jungle to be raised by a pack of fuckin’ wild monkeys. He’ll be far better off.
The scary part, the truly scary part of all of this is the fact this is not some isolated incident we are seeing here.
Data from the Central Statistics Agency showed 25 per cent of Indonesian children aged three to 15 have tried cigarettes, with 3.2 per cent of those active smokers.
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 fierce opposition from the tobacco industry.
Well color me surprised. A big business entity values it’s bottom line over the health and well being of an entire generation of children. I would have never thunk’d that would happen, der der der der.
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.
Ubiquitous advertising hit a bump last month when a cigarette company was forced to withdraw its sponsorship of pop star Kelly Clarkson’s concert following protests from fans and anti-tobacco groups.
However, imposing a non-smoking message will be difficult in Indonesia, the world’s third-largest tobacco consumer.
Tubagus Haryo Karbyanto, a member of the National Commission of Tobacco Control, said Indonesia must also address the social conditions that lead to smoking, such as family influence and peer pressure.
‘The promotion of health has to be integrated down to the smallest units in our society, from public health centres and local health care centres to the family,’ he was quoted as saying by the Jakarta Globe on Friday.
Health Minister Endang Sedyaningsih conceded turning young people off smoking will be difficult in a country where it is perceived as positive because cigarette companies sponsor everything from scholarships to sporting events.
‘This is the challenge we face in protecting youth from the dangers of smoking,’ she said in a statement on the ministry’s website.
A challenge? Yes.
A worthy one? Indeed.