Boy, 8, who smoked 40 cigarettes a day kicks habit

PHOTO: Boy, 8, who smoked 40 cigarettes a day kicks habit

JAKARTA - An eight-year-old Indonesian boy who smoked more than a pack a day from age four has kicked the habit, a child-welfare commission said Thursday.

The boy, Ilham, has put on two kilograms (4.4 pounds), since going into treatment with the independent Child Protection Commission a month ago, said its chairman, Arist Merdeka Sirait.

"He has quit smoking, but there is a risk he may restart if the (home) environment is not supportive," Sirait told reporters.

Ilham was placed in treatment in mid-March after his parents complained he would throw violent tantrums, hitting them and smashing windows and objects when denied cigarettes.

"He is calmer now. His parents are now able to take him for a walk and read a book together," Sirait said.

The boy's father - who kicked his own smoking habit a month ago - said he plans to put Ilham in an Islamic boarding school where his activities would be closely monitored.

Sirait said the course in Jakarta involved spiritual instruction, socialising with other children and relaxation.

He added that the commission had recorded 20 cases of child smokers in Indonesia.

A two-year-old boy on Sumatra island kicked the habit with a similar treatment after a YouTube video emerged in 2010 of the overweight toddler drawing heavily on a cigarette.

His parents admitted he smoked 40 cigarettes a day.

Indonesia has the world's highest percentage of young smokers, according to a World Health Organisation (WHO) report from 2006, which found more than 37 per cent of high school and university students smoked.

The government has done little to regulate big tobacco's activities in Indonesia, other than increasing excise taxes.

Local media reported Thursday, however, that the government planned to mandate graphic warnings on cigarette packs.

Smoking rates have risen six-fold in Indonesia over the last 40 years, with 89 million Indonesians in a population of 240 million smoking today, WHO data shows.

Prices remain extremely low by international standards, with a pack of 20 costing little more than a dollar.