The literal “poster child” for Indonesian childhood smoking was blowing down an astronomical 40 cigarettes a day when he was only two. A few years later he was able to kick the habit after a stay in rehab, but this only led to him replacing one addiction with another. Now, he’s undergone an incredible body transformation and is unrecognizable from what he looked like a few years ago.
Childhood nicotine addiction is a major problem in Indonesia, and the issue gathered international attention thanks in part to two-year-old Ardi Rizal, who was captured putting back cigarette after cigarette. At the time, seven years ago, Ardi had developed a dependency which saw him smoke 40 cigarettes daily.
Images of the young boy from Sumatra, Indonesia puffing smokes while riding his tricycle went viral. His mother had attempted to intervene, but the toddler would throw ferocious fits if he was not given his nicotine fix.
“He would bang his head on the wall if he couldn’t get what he wanted,” his mother, Diane Rizal, told Daily Mail in 2013, “That’s why I get him cigarettes in the first place – because of his temper and his crying.” Young Ardi was able to quit smoking, but replaced one addiction with another.
With all the international attention on the boy’s habit the government intervened and he was brought to a rehabilitation facility where he was weaned off cigarettes and taught how to be a normal toddler. At first he threw tantrums, and the mother would call the doctor from the rehab facility.
“When Ardi first quit smoking he would demand a lot of toys,” Mrs. Rizal says of her son kicking his addiction. “Now I don’t give him cigarettes, but he eats a lot,” his mother said a few years ago as he replaced his nicotine cravings with food.
“With so many people living in the house it’s hard to stop him from getting food,” Diane said about her son’s weight gain. Eventually, the family brought him to a nutritionist and they started addressing his addiction to food.
The nutritionist, Francisca Dewi said at the time, “Ardi is very overweight, his weight doesn’t match his age.” Dewi mentioned the trouble with the boy living in a crowded home, “If Diana wants to forbid him from eating, it will be hard. She will need cooperation from the entire household.”
His weight continued to balloon until the family changed his diet. Eventually they had him eating fresh fruits and vegetables, and taught him portion control for junk foods. Seven years after being addicted to cigarettes, and then battling an addiction to food, Ardi has slimmed down.
Yet, Indonesia still has an epidemic of young men smoking, as it has been reported that more than 60 percent of men regularly smoke. It is estimated that nearly a third of Indonesia children will have a cigarette before their 10th birthday. Statistics from 2014 report that 3.2 percent of Indonesian kids between 3 and 15 years old were active smokers.