A seven-year-old Indonesia boy smokes 16 cigarettes every day. Although this is shocking to many, this is a drastic improvement for little Dihan Awalidan. He began smoking at the age of three and at one point smoked three packs of cigarettes a day. According to his father, Iyan, when Dihan was not given money to buy cigarettes he would have tantrums or steal them.
His parents, who also smoke, said the bad habit has already begun taking a toll on Dihan’s body, but they cannot make him kick the habit. The child’s mother Tati said, if Dihan does not smoke he cries. The seven-year-old is not alone; he also smokes in the fields with his friends to hide his habit from the family.
Not only do his friends smoke, sadly so do a third of the kids in Indonesia. President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, Matt Myers, said Indonesia is saturated with images of tobacco. He added:
Smoking is not just an easy habit to pick up, it is the cultural norm there.
Indonesia is not alone in their tobacco struggle. According to cancer research in the UK, an estimated 2.7 million of their 12 million children, under the age of 16, will become smokers. The charity said this could lead to about 500,000 deaths related to cigarettes and more needs to be done to reduce the number of kids turning to tobacco. An Australian project found that plain tobacco packaging reduced the number of new smokers. Reportedly, after the standard packs were introduced the number of smokers dropped 15 percent.
Cancer Research UK’s executive director of policy, Sarah Woolnough, said there are fears that cigarettes in plain packaging could cause a rise in levels of counterfeit products. However, research has not seen any increase in illegal products as a result. The latest calculations, according the research team, show that an appallingly high number of lives will be lost if they do not move faster.
The campaign for cigarettes to be sold in standardized, plain packaging began three years ago, according to Woolnough, and they are excited the Government is committed to helping the cause. She added:
We must challenge the idea that tobacco is a normal product if we are to stop tobacco from killing so many people. For too long tobacco has been allowed to cause illness and death. If we are serious about health, we must do more to reduce smoking rates. The time has come to vote in order to save the lives of future generations.
Indonesia is the fifth largest tobacco market in the world. Smoking is a growing trend amongst young children in the Southeast Asian nation. A third of young Indonesians have tried a cigarette before they reach 10-years-old. Myers said:
What they have is a perfect storm for destruction; the government and the industry is failing to protect its children.
Dihan is not the only child ruining his health with cigarettes in his Indonesian village. The seven-year-old has begun to experience problems and his lips are already stained black due to the amount of tar he inhales regularly. Although he has reduced his habit a great deal, he is so addicted that he refuses to stop entirely. Together with three of his friends Dihan continues to smoke a pack of cigarettes every day.
by Cherese Jackson (Virginia)
Top Image Courtesy of Stephen Mitchell – Creativecommons Flickr License
Featured Image Courtesy of Mr. Snappy – Creativecommons Flickr License
Inside Image Courtesy of LHOON – Creativecommons Flickr License