Many people have seen the smoking baby on YouTube - the chubby, cheerful two-year-old from Sumatra with a pack-a-day habit. What people may not realise is that Ardi Rizal is not a one-off. He is one of scores of toddlers and pre-schoolers addicted to nicotine in the land of the child smoker.
Muhammad Dihan Awalidan is four, smoked his first cigarette at two, and gets through a pack of 25 a day. He started when he stole one from his father and lit it on the kitchen stove.
His father, Iyan Ansori, and mother, Sulawati, are farmers from a village in west Java. They know his habit is unhealthy but feel powerless to stop him. He walks to the warung, or cafe, to buy his cigarettes, sometimes staying for a coffee. If he's denied, ''it's like he's possessed, he really wants it'', says Iyan, who smokes a few cigarettes a day. Dihan, when asked what smoking is like, says ''enak'' - which in this context means both ''delicious'' and ''it makes me feel good''.
Indonesia is the wild west when it comes to tobacco. It's one of a few countries that has not signed the World Health Organisation's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, so there are few restrictions on advertising, warnings or smoking indoors. Even where bans are applied, such as in shopping centres, they are often ignored. Outdoor advertising, footnoted by the mildest of warnings, assaults you everywhere.
About 90 per cent of smokers here favour ''kretek'', clove cigarettes which are an Indonesian product and regarded by some with nationalistic fervour. They can be high in tar (39mg compared with 16mg for the strongest cigarette in Australia) and are sold in packets or by the stick. Some stalls set up outside schools to attract students.
But the Marlboro man - literally and figuratively dead in the West - is also alive in Indonesia. Philip Morris and British American Tobacco have moved into Indonesia in the past 10 years, attracted by sales of a massive volume of cigarettes - 270 billion a year - and growing fast.
''It's like he's possessed, he really wants it'' … four-year-old Muhammad Dihan Awalidan, who smokes 25 cigarettes a day. Photo: Michael Bachelard
About 70 per cent of men smoke, vastly outnumbering women because of cultural taboos. But young, smart city women are appearing in smoking ads, and some are breaking with tradition in pursuit of what Andika Priyono, from the country's child protection agency, describes as the ''three Bs'' marking modern success. ''BlackBerry, braces and black menthol [cigarettes]'', she told the Jakarta Globe newspaper.
The University of Indonesia's demographic institute found that 71,000 Indonesian children aged 10 to 14 were smokers in 1995. By 2010, there were 426,000 at least. The child protection agency Komnas Anak gave The Sun-Herald a list of 10 smoking children whose names and histories it could confirm. It says almost 2 per cent of Indonesian smokers start at four - a number that is rising fast. Even for the poor in Indonesia it is affordable; the cost of a standard pack of 20 is about 90¢.
Sandi Adi Susanto has been smoking since he was 18 months old. Every morning he asks for a coffee and a cigarette. He drinks alcohol, too, if he can get it, and his parents believe he is possessed by the hard-bitten spirit of his late grandmother.
Reno Ardiansyah has been smoking since he was 14 months old; Aldi Ilham is only eight, but has already been smoking for four years; and Falen is two and does not speak much but can distinguish between different brands of cigarettes. All of them, like Dihan, are surrounded by a culture steeped in tobacco.
''I think it's because of the environment,'' says father Iyan, ''because the village people always sit around together and he saw people smoking and wanted to try it.''
Dihan's fellow villagers, and his family, farm tobacco, among other things. But he shows no interest in the product from the farm. What he likes is Sampoerna A, a smooth-tasting machine-made brand of kretek owned since 2005 by Philip Morris. The global tobacco giant identifies Indonesia as its biggest growth market. At its results presentation on July 19, its chief financial officer, Hermann Waldemer, boasted that Sampoerna A was the fastest-growing brand in Indonesia, increasing by 1.2 points to be 13.1 per cent of the market. The company's other brands, including Marlboro, are also growing. ''We're just doing extremely well,'' Waldemer told analysts. ''The elements are all there for a very positive performance to continue in the Indonesian market.''
A law first proposed in 2009 attempted to limit smoking and its promotion. But lobbying by the tobacco industry has left it on the back burner because, says Ignatius Mulyono, chairman of the House of Representatives' Legislative Body, it was ''very biased toward the anti-tobacco lobby''.
Sponsorship, particularly of sport and education, are a big component of the industry's influence. A recent survey shows tobacco companies sponsored 1042 events in Indonesia from 2009 to last year, including 626 concerts and 288 sporting contests.
One public high school in East Java uses a tobacco company foundation logo as its school badge, says the child protection commission's spokeswoman, Lisda Sundari.
A recent book, Killing Indonesia: Global Conspiracy to Destroy Kretek, paints smoking almost as a nationalist requirement, and the health lobby as a conspiracy by American interests to kill the clove industry.
Persahabatan Hospital is the national referral hospital for cancer, and the specialist Dr Elisna Syahruddin says one-fifth of her patients are under 40. In the US, the median age for diagnosis is 72.
One of her patients, Rambe Partogi, 31, has fourth-stage lung cancer. He started smoking at 12 because all the men in his family smoked. At 15, he changed brands to Marlboro after he won a competition and became part of the Marlboro Adventure Team, hiking and doing other activities in the university town of Yogyakarta. His friends, still smokers, visit him in hospital.
''I say to them: 'Smoke and go to hell.' Sometimes they listen.''
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