Thursday, 27 May 2010
I read a truly shocking story today in the Daily Mail about a two-year old boy in Indonesia who has a forty-a-day cigarette habit. Yes, that's right, forty a day! Ardi Razal's health has been ruined and he now struggles to move himself, according to the report. His mother, Diana, says that he is totally addicted. All of her attempts to stop his puffing have been abandoned in the face of his tantrums;
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.
His father, Mohammed Razal, a fishmonger living in Musi Banyuasin in South Sumatra, does not seem to see a problem, believing his son looks perfectly healthy. All I can say is that he needs to look just a little harder. More than that, he needs to ask himself how healthy his son is likely to be by the age of ten, assuming he ever makes it that far.
Although this would appear to be an extreme example, Indonesian authorities are worried by the number of young children taking to smoking in a culture where tobacco is king. According to official statistics, 25% of children between three and fifteen have tried cigarettes, and there has been a sharp increase in smoking among those aged between five and nine.
The usual panaceas are being offered as solutions; that there needs to be a ban on tobacco advertising and a campaign illustrating the effects of passive smoking. This does not, it seem to me, to go anywhere near understanding why, and by what means, children as young as two have become hardened smokers.
We all have choices to make in life, risks we freely chose to take with our eyes open. Ardi Razal clearly did not acquire his habit by free choice or overnight. Admittedly without knowing all of the facts -the report does not make the precise circumstances of his addiction to tobacco clear- I can only conclude that his parents are feckless, irresponsible or uncaring, perhaps a combination of all three.