This week, a startling video of a chain-smoking toddler quickly achieved viral internet status. Ardi Rizal, a 2-year-old Indonesian who chain-smokes up to 40 cigarettes a day, was reportedly given his first butt by his father at 18 months. But such parental lapses in judgment, says Mary Elizabeth Williams in Salon, do not go unencouraged in his country. "Deep-pocketed" Tobacco companies, strictly controlled in the U.S., still enjoy a relative free-for-all in nations like Indonesia, where there is "no age limit on who can buy cigarettes," and the tobacco industry operates "largely unregulated." An excerpt:
"Those of us used to moving in social circles where giving your kid access to a doughnut or a Bratz doll will get you a rep as a child abuser, where anti-smoking campaigns are enthusiastic to the point of stomach-turning, were naturally boggled by the clip. But that disturbing video doesn't just represent an easy opportunity for parents with high-speed Internet access to feel smug about their own child-rearing practices.
"It's a snapshot of a country where over 60 percent of all adult men smoke, a place where, unsurprisingly, the tobacco industry rides roughshod over the public health interest. While smoking rates continue to dip in places like the U.S., they've actually risen in Indonesia. The World Bank estimates that one-third of the world's adult population smokes — an astonishing 80 percent of whom live in 'low- and middle-income countries.' And that number just keeps growing — in places like Indonesia, where a smoking household will spend about 11 percent of its income on cigarettes and the rate of smokers between the tender age of 5 and 9 has dramatically risen since 2001."