As others have pointed a out, the video of a 2-year-old puffing away on a cigarette has been around the web and back again. At this point, we’re all familiar with the concept of going viral, and while its hard to know exactly what factors lead to a video taking off, in this case it seems to be utter outrage. The indignation is directed, of course, at the parents of Ardi Razal, who put cigarettes in his hands at 18 months (Side note: how coordinated was this kid at 18 months? My 3-year-old still can’t eat yogurt without getting half of it down the front of his shirt.) and seem to do little more than throw their hands in the air and plead helplessness, when asked why they haven’t broken him of the habit. (His father actually says, of his smoking toddler, “He looks healthy to me.”)
But what if our outrage misplaced?
Of course, it goes without saying that a 2-year-old’s bad habits should be limited to saying no a lot and stalling at bedtime, and not include smoking cigarettes. But Indonesia is the fifth largest tobacco market in the world. In 2008, 165 billion cigarettes were sold there. A whopping 63% of men living in Indonesia smoke, as do 24% of boys. It is legal to smoke in government buildings, offices, restaurants and bars. There are no limits on tobacco advertising. One of the major suppliers of cigarettes in Indonesia: Phillip Morris. Another is British American Tobacco.
In other words, there’s been a lot of talk abut Ardi Rizal’s parents today, and not a lot about the cultural conditions that contribute to their negligence—or the people on the other side of the world who are making an awful lot of money on little Ardi and all the other little boys who are barely out of the cradle and already hooked. Perhaps that is where we should direct our anger.