We’ve all been shocked by the photos of Ardi Rizal, the smoking 2-year-old from Indonesia.
His 30-year-old father started his son on cigarette smoking at just 18 months old because the baby had a hernia. The 2-year-old now smokes 40 cigarettes a day!
Ardi’s mother who is 26-years-old told CNN that she was smoking when she was pregnant, but after she gave birth she quit. She said her baby would just smell smoke and be happy.
According to an article by by Krisa Van Meurs, MD, Associate Professor of Pediatrics Stanford University School of Medicine, cigarette smoke contains more than 4,000 chemicals, including truly nasty things like cyanide, lead, and at least 60 cancer-causing compounds. When you smoke during pregnancy, that toxic brew gets into your bloodstream, your baby’s only source of oxygen and nutrients.
Smoking during pregnancy can have lifelong effects on your baby’s brain. Children of pregnant smokers are especially likely to have learning disorders behavioral problems, and relatively low IQs.
It’s a known fact that second-hand smokers are likely to become smokers. Ardi became addicted in the womb and is now a true nicotine addict.
When his parents say he throws a tantrum when refused cigarettes, that makes sense with an addition.
There is also the issue of Ardi weighing 44 pounds at the age of two.
And the Indonesian government adds to this by having weak tobacco control regulations. They receive billions of dollars in annual revenue from tobacco sales. Their ad campaigns encourage even the youngest to smoke.
According to Indonesian Child Protection Commission chairman Hadi Supeno, “There are many children under five years of age who have started smoking. A decade ago, the average age of beginner smokers was 19, but a recent study found that the average is seven.”
Data from the Central Statistics Agency showed 25 percent of Indonesian children aged 3 to 15 have tried cigarettes, with 3.2 percent of those active smokers.
The percentage of 5- to 9-year-olds lighting up increased from 0.4 percent in 2001 to 2.8 percent in 2004, the agency reported.
According to the American Lung Association web site “Secondhand smoke causes approximately 3,400 deaths from lung cancer and 22,700 to 69,600 deaths from heart disease each year.”
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 opposition from the tobacco industry. The bill would ban cigarette advertising and sponsorship, prohibit smoking in public, and add graphic images to packaging.
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.
Ardi’s mother told CNN that both she and her husband have quit smoking. She hopes Ardi will quit soon. She added that she learned that she can’t use force to stop him, but she needs to be gentle and try to distract him.
Distraction does not sooth an addict. And no one has even addressed the child’s obesity. This child needs medical attention.
Clearly this is a case of child neglect and abuse by Ardi’s parents, his government and the cigarette companies.
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