“Cigarettes taste better [than candy].”
Indonesia, the fourth most populous country on Earth, has found itself in the throes of a smoking epidemic.
And the smokers are as young as four.
When filmed in Jakarta, Indonesia, then-nine-year-old Aldi Ilham had been smoking cigarettes since he was four. In most countries around the world, this news would not only be outrageous, but illegal. However, there is no minimum age requirement to purchase or smoke cigarettes in Indonesia. 70% of men aged 20 and over smoke, and in just a decade, the average starting age has fallen from 19 to just seven.
“For the umpteenth time, the Indonesian government is reminded by these child smokers that smoking addiction in Indonesia has already reached full alert, is real and needs further handling,” said Arist Merdeka Sirait of the National Commission for Children’s Protection.
Indonesia’s economy is dependent upon the tobacco industry, in which many natives make their income through farming. The nation is also bombarded with cigarette advertisements–from billboards to television to YouTube ads–geared toward young people. Tobacco billboards are reported to even be near primary and secondary schools, where students are able to buy individual cigarettes for as cheap as a dime.
Ilham is one of thousands across Indonesia whose innocence is quickly being snatched away through a cloud of tobacco smoke. Without the government’s intervention, smoking will remain responsible for nearly a quarter of all annual deaths in the country.