8-year-old boy smokes 2 packs a day

PHOTO: 8-year-old boy smokes 2 packs a day

Photo: Photographs like this one above of two-year-old Indonesian boy Ardi Rizal in 2010, highlight Indonesia's failure to regulate the tobacco industry.

Indonesia - In 2010, 2-year-old Ardi Rizal made headlines when pictures of him smoking emerged in the media. Reports claimed he smoked 40 cigarettes a day, after that first puff when he was just 18 months old.

Now another eight-year-old Indonesian boy is making headlines. Ilam reportedly started smoking when he was four years old. Now, he smokes two packs a day.

Ilham, as well as Ardi Rizal, is a glaring example of the government's failure to regulate the tobacco industry, Indonesia's Child Protection Commission says.

After food, cigarettes account for the second-largest household expenditure in the South-East Asian country of 240 million people, nearly half of whom still live on less than US$2 ($2.50) a day.

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"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."

Spends all day smoking and playing

Spends all 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 said.

"The growing number of smokers are a result of the industry's aggressive marketing targeting young people."

The government makes about $US7 billion a year in excise taxes from the industry, which employs thousands of people on the island of Java.

In the case of two-year-old Ardi Rizal who smoked about 40 cigarettes a day, he managed to kick the habit after he received intensive specialist care in 2010.

According to the World Health Organisation, smoking rates have risen six-fold in Indonesia over the past 40 years.

Smoking kills at least 400,000 people in Indonesia every year and another 25,000 die from passive smoking.