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Indonesia's smoking children

25th May 2010

People in Indonesia are beginning to worry about rising rates of child tobacco use.


Though relatively uncommon in other parts of the world, childhood smoking is on the rise in Indonesia.

Several months ago, a video was posted on the video-sharing site YouTube that featured a four-year-old boy from Indonesia blowing smoke rings.

The video was removed from the site after it made some viewers uncomfortable.

Ardi Rizal, only two years old, is one child who is already addicted to nicotine.

Ardi throws temper tantrums when his parents refuse him cigarettes. His parents gave him his first cigarette when he was 18 months old.

Ardi's father said that he is not worried about the boy, and that he believed his son looked healthy.

Coming in at number five on the world's list of tobacco producers, Indonesia has the third highest rate of tobacco consumption in the world.

Although many of the Indonesian children who smoke are older than Ardi, the Indonesian Central Statistics Agency said that 25% of Indonesian children aged three to 15 had tried cigarettes, and that 3.2% of the children who tried tobacco continued smoking actively.

According to the agency, the number of children between the ages of five and nine who smoked regularly jumped from 0.4% in 2001 to 2.8% in 2004.

Endang Sedyaningsih, Indonesia's health minister, said she believed turning the youth away from tobacco would be difficult, since tobacco companies played a philanthropic role in Indonesian society and sponsored things like scholarships for people.

However, some advocates are beginning speak out about secondhand smoke.

Seto Mulyadi, chairman of Indonesia's child protection commission, said that Indonesia needed a law to protect children and passive smokers.

Last year, the country passed a health law that formally recognised the addictiveness of tobacco.

Now, anti-smoking coalitions are asking the government to restrict public smoking, ban cigarette advertising, and put health warnings on cigarette packets.

A health law passed in 2009 formally recognises that smoking is addictive, and an anti-smoking coalition is pushing for tighter restrictions on smoking in public places.

They are also pushing for advertising bans and bigger health warnings on cigarette packages.

However, tobacco legislation in Indonesia is still in its initial stages.

The Indonesian tobacco industry is also actively stalling tobacco legislation.

Benny Wahyudi, a senior official at the Indonesian government's industry ministry, said that the government wanted to limit the number of people who smoked, and that he believed an advertising ban would limit child and teen smoking.

In Indonesia, tobacco advertising is ubiquitous.

Last month, pop star Kelly Clarkson's Indonesia concert was cancelled after fans and anti-tobacco activists protested the fact that a tobacco company was the concert's main sponsor.

Tubagus Haryo Karbyanto, a member of the National Commission of Tobacco Control, said he believed that the promotion of health had to be integrated into the smallest units of Indonesian society, including public health care centres and family environments.

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