The case of Ardi Rizal, a 2-year-old Indonesian toddler who smoked 40 cigarettes a day, is being revisited six years after it went viral online. Rizal, now 8-years-old, has overcome his addiction to smoking and is now living a normal life.
The outcry over his case following international media attention forced the Indonesian government to take action. Rizal underwent a special rehabilitation program to help him quit smoking and overcome addiction to nicotine, according to the Family Health Freedom Network.
Deeply shocking images of 2-year-old Rizal, from a poor village in Sumatra, Indonesia, inhaling cigarette smoke and blowing rings while riding a tricycle first emerged in the international media in 2010.
Diane Rizal, Ardi's mother, told media reporters that her son smoked an average of about 40 cigarettes a day.And because his addiction developed at a very tender age, rehabilitation proved a long and arduous task. Rizal developed a craving for food to replace his craving for cigarettes and had to undergo separate treatment to overcome his craving for food.
But thankfully, Rizal, now 8-years-old, has recovered fully, according to the latest reports. He is now able to stay from nicotine and eats like a normal child.
According to the Daily Mail, the treatment to overcome nicotine addiction involved play therapy sessions in Jakarta. Dr. Kak Seto, a psychiatrist, taught Diane, 28, how to keep her son occupied with normal play activity that helps to keep his mind off smoking.
"He's totally addicted. If he doesn't get cigarettes, he gets angry and screams and batters his head against the wall. He tells me he feels dizzy and sick."But by the age of 5, in 2013, he had learned to stay off cigarettes and overcome his addiction to nicotine.
"There are many people still offering Ardi cigarettes," Diane said. "But he says, 'I love [Dr.] Kak Seto. He would be sad if I started smoking again and made myself ill.'"But as he went off nicotine, he developed a massive appetite for junk food, apparently as a substitute for cigarettes.
He became grossly overweight, gorging on cheap, fatty junk food, and therapists were forced to start a new session of treatment to help him overcome his new addiction.
"Ardi is very overweight; his weight doesn't match his age. His ideal weight is 17kg to 19kg. He's 24kg already."
The little boy transferred his craving for cigarette smoke to food completely. His mother said he would throw wild temper tantrums if anyone tried to stop him from gorging on food, exactly the same way he used to behave when he wanted cigarettes.
"He would bang his head on the wall if he couldn't get what he wanted. That's why I get him cigarettes in the first place -- because of his temper and his crying," Diane said. "Now I don't give him cigarettes, but he eats a lot. With so many people living in the house it's hard to stop him from getting food."
Ardi was able to overcome his addiction to food after he was placed on a diet of fresh fruits, vegetables, and much smaller portions of his favorite snacks.Indonesians are among the world's heaviest smokers, with more than 60 percent of men smoking regularly. Child smoking is shockingly common in the country. Official statistics indicate that more than 30 percent of Indonesian children smoke a cigarette before their 10th birthday, the Daily Mail reported.
About 3.2 percent of Indonesian children aged 3 to 15 years were active smokers in 2014. About 2.8 percent of 5 to 9-year-olds were smokers, according to figures released for 2004 by the country's Central Statistics Agency.
Smoking is endemic among teenagers.
Following the attention given to Ardi's case by the international media, the government was forced to launch a program to tackle the epidemic of child smoking in the country. But the tobacco industry has a powerful lobby that works to block bills introduced to impose tighter restrictions on tobacco smoking, advertisements, and sponsorship.
[Image via Shutterstock]