Indonesian boy, 8, puffs two cigarette packs a day
JAKARTA—An eight-year-old Indonesian boy who smokes two packets of cigarettes a day has highlighted the government’s failure to regulate the tobacco industry, the country’s Child Protection Commission said Monday.
After food, cigarettes account for the second-largest household expenditure in the Southeast Asian country of 240 million people, nearly half of whom still live on less than $2 a day.
But there is no minimum age for buying or smoking cigarettes.
“Ilham started smoking when he was four years old… his smoking habit grew day by day and now he can finish smoking two packs of cigarettes a day,” the boy’s father, a motorcycle taxi driver called Umar, was quoted as saying by state news agency Antara.
The boy, who lives in a village in West Java provincial district of Sukabumi, would flare up in a rage and “smash glass windows or anything” if he was not given cigarettes, he added.
“He doesn’t want to go to school anymore. He spends his whole day smoking and playing.”
The government has increased excise taxes but prices remain extremely low by international standards, with a pack of 20 costing little more than a dollar.
Indonesia’s Child Protection Commission chairman Arist Merdeka Sirait said the latest case further highlighted the government’s failure to regulate the industry.
“This is yet another evidence showing the government has been defeated by the tobacco industry,” he told AFP.
“The growing number of smokers is a result of the industry’s aggressive marketing targeting young people.”
The government makes about $7 billion a year in excise taxes from the industry, which employs thousands of people on the island of Java.
In another case, a two-year-old boy who smoked about 40 cigarettes a day managed to kick the habit after he received intensive specialist care in 2010.
According to the World Health Organization, smoking rates have risen six-fold in Indonesia over the last 40 years.
Smoking kills at least 400,000 people in Indonesia every year and another 25,000 die from passive smoking.