The toddler has been smoking since he was 18-months-old, when his father gave him his first cigarette. Since then the small boy has become addicted to cigarettes, something that more and more young children in Indonesia are facing. According to the Central Statistics Agency an average of 25 percent of children between 3-15 have tried a cigarette, with 3.2 percent becoming active smokers. Children between 5-9 years-old have an increased smoking trend, going from 0.4 percent in 2001 to 2.8 percent in 2004.
“I’m not worried about his health, he looks healthy,” shrugged the boy’s father Mohammad Rizal. “He cries and throws tantrums when we don’t let him smoke. He’s addicted.”
Child advocates worry about the potential health problems that this could mean for children. Not only those that smoke, but also for those who are subjected to secondhand smoke. In Indonesia, nearly one third of the population smokes cigarettes. The country is listed as the third-largest consumer of cigarettes in the world.
Despite efforts by the government, ending smoking is not easy to do. The tobacco industry has fought back against and managed to stall a bill that would ban cigarette advertising and sponsorship. In Indonesia, tobacco companies frequently sponsor sporting events and scholarships for youth. In many areas, smoking is seen as a positive thing due to the constant advertising. – Summer, staff writer
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