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article imageIndonesian boy age 8, smokes 25 cigarettes a day

By Yukio Strachan     Mar 25, 2012 in World
An eight-year-old Indonesian boy is allowed to smoke around 25 cigarettes a day, "otherwise he will get mad," his mother says.
"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, said, according to the AFP.
"He spends his whole day smoking and playing," he said.
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 couldn't light up, his father added.
His mother, Nenah, agrees.
"I have to let him smoke, otherwise he will get mad. He smashed the windows five times because I told him he could not smoke," she said, according to London's Telegraph news.
She said the eight-year-old also doesn't want to go to school anymore as teachers do not allow him to smoke. "Without school, we have to spend 20,000 rupiah (2 US dollars) for cigarettes each day," ITN news reported.
In this Southeast Asian country of 240 million people, nearly half still live on less than two dollars a day.
'A disturbing trend'
Ilham is not alone. He is part of a disturbing trend in Indonesia. Data from the Central Statistics Agency, the Telegraph reports, showed 25 percent of Indonesian children aged 3 to 15 have tried cigarettes, with 3.2 percent of those active smokers.
Last year, a two-year-old boy who smoked about 40 cigarettes a day made international headlines. He received intensive specialist care in 2010 and he kicked the habit.
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 are a result of the industry's aggressive marketing targeting young people."
But imposing a non-smoking message won't be easy in Indonesia, the world's third-largest tobacco consumer.
In fact, the Indonesian government makes about $7 billion US a year in excise taxes from the industry, which employs thousands of people on the island of Java.
Government statistics show that in Indonesia, cigarettes account for the second-largest household expenditure, after food.
Nearly one in three people in Indonesia smoke, with no age restrictions on purchases.
Smoking kills at least 400,000 people in Indonesia every year and another 25,000 die from passive smoking, the AFP reports.
Tobacco ban not enough
Tubagus Haryo Karbyanto, a member of the National Commission of Tobacco Control, told the Telegraph that Indonesia must also address the social conditions that lead to smoking, such as family influence and peer pressure.
"The promotion of health has to be integrated down to the smallest units in our society, from public health centres and local health care centres to the family," he said.
The Telegraph reported that Ilham gets money from his mother for cigarettes.
"My mother gives me 5,000 rupiah (54 cents)," he said, and, when asked if all the money was spent on cigarettes, he nodded.
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