JAKARTA, Sept 2, 2010 (AFP) - A two-year-old Indonesian boy who smoked about 40 cigarettes a day has kicked the habit after receiving intensive specialist care, a child welfare official said Thursday.
Ardi Rizal shocked the world when a video of him drawing heavily on cigarettes appeared on the Internet in May and drew attention to Indonesia's failure to regulate the tobacco industry.
"He has quit smoking and the most important thing is he doesn't ask for cigarettes anymore," national commission for child protection secretary-general Arist Merdeka Sirait told AFP.
Six months after his father gave him his first cigarette, the overweight boy was smoking two packs a day and threw violent tantrums if his addiction was not satisfied.
Accompanied by his mother, the boy left his village on Sumatra island in July to undergo treatment in the capital.
"He received psychosocial therapy for one month, during which therapists kept him busy with activities and encouraged him to play with kids of the same age," Sirait said.
"We diverted his addiction from cigarettes to playing."
Ardi's case has highlighted the tobacco industry's aggressive marketing to women and children in developing countries like Indonesia, where regulations are weak and many people do not know that smoking is dangerous.
Sirait said the government had given financial support to Ardi's parents, who were ignorant of smoking's dangers and used cigarettes to keep the toddler happy as they worked long hours at a street market.
"Ardi was very happy when he left Jakarta this morning as he has really missed his father in the village," Sirait said.
Cigarette consumption in the Southeast Asian archipelago of some 240 million people soared 47 percent in the 1990s, according to the World Health Organization.