I saw this video a couple of weeks ago, and even now I find it very disturbing:
This 2-year-old Sumatran kid was smoking roughly 40 cigarettes a day! His name is Ardi Rizal (I know, right?) and his dad taught him to smoke, just because, wala lang, he felt like it. The dad gave Ardi his first cigarette at 18 months old! I don’t know what the dad was smoking, that would make him think this was fine. And later on, according to his parents, Ardi would throw tantrums and bang his head on the wall if they refused to supply him with cigarettes. Duh. Ardi quickly became an internet sensation when his video hit online sites. The Indonesian government took notice immediately and started treatment of the nicotine habit. They were able to stop him from smoking for 2 hours by distracting him with toys. They brought in a team including a pediatrician and a psychiatrist to help curb the smoking habit of a disastrous public relations nightmare.
The case has piqued the interest of many watchers because in many countries, especially in Asia, marketing tobacco products are still heavily aimed at women and children, without accompanying warnings of the ill effects of the products. Many people still don’t know that smoking is dangerous to their health. The WHO says about 400,000 Indonesians die every year from smoking-related illnesses.
Thank goodness the Philippines has already stopped ads of cigarettes and in some cities, banned in indoor areas. I understand the right of people to smoke if they choose, but once the smoke pollutes the air of other people, that’s when I have a problem with it. The risks you take as a smoker is your business, I respect that. But the moment I’m inhaling your second-hand smoke, then it becomes my business. If you smoke inside your house, I’m cool with that. But if I’m eating in a restaurant and your smoke wafts into my breathing space, then it’s not cool. My right to breathe clean air overrides your right to smoke cigarettes. As long as I don’t have to breathe your smoke, you can do whatever you want with your lungs.
I remember one time we were in a Chinese restaurant in Makati, and we were in a no smoking area with a huge sign that says, well, NO SMOKING. Then a group of Asian foreigners come in and start lighting their cigarettes right next to our table and start puffing smoke like chimneys. To avoid a confrontation, we talked to the manager and pointed out to her that they are smoking in the non-smoking area that they designated. The smoking area was upstairs, and they should move there. To our disbelief, the manager asked us if we wanted to transfer tables because the foreigners refused to stop smoking, and refused to transfer upstairs to the smoking area. Unbelievable.
It’s so common now for people who have never smoked a single stick of cigarette to die of lung cancer, all because of second-hand smoke. Usually these are people who live with smokers and get to inhale their smoke on a daily basis. Again, I have nothing against smokers. I know many people who smoke who are very conscious about where they exhale their fumes. Either their go outside or they make sure they exhale away from people. It’s their choice to smoke, but it’s also my choice to breathe clean air. It’s a fair exchange.