Smoking Toddler Kicks the Habit

quit smokingRemember Ardi Rizal, the so-called smoking toddler? The two-year-old Indonesian boy who smoked about 40 cigarettes a day?

Good news! After receiving special therapy, he has managed to kick the nasty habit, a child welfare official told AFP today.

In May, when a video of Rizal smoking went viral on the Internet, it drew international attention to the weak regulation of the tobacco industry in Indonesia.

Six months after his father gave him his first cigarette, the overweight boy was smoking two packs a day. Apparently, if his parents tried to take away his cigarettes, the boy threw violent tantrums. So where is he now?
To help him kick the habit, the Indonesian government funded the boy’s treatment at a special facility in Jakarta.

“He received psychosocial therapy for one month, during which therapists kept him busy with activities and encouraged him to play with kids of the same age,” child protection secretary-general Arist Merdeka Sirait said. “We diverted his addiction from cigarettes to playing.”

In Indonesia, many people are ignorant about the health dangers of smoking.  In addition, tobacco regulations are weak. For instance, unlike in the U.S., in Indonesia, tobacco companies are free to advertise on television and sponsor entertainment events.

After the international outcry over the toddler’s habit, the Indonesian government gave his parents financial support. His parents claimed they didn’t know that smoking was dangerous and that cigarettes were the easiest way to keep their son happy while they worked at a street market in the small village.

Of course, it’s wonderful that Rizal has quit smoking, but what about all of the other kids in Indonesia who smoke and don’t get government assistance to quit? Perhaps this case will create pressure on Big Tobacco to stop marketing to children in developing nations like Indonesia.

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Photo: Hindustan Times

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