The 2-year-old boy who became an internet sensation in 2010 after he was filmed chain smoking in a village has quit smoking for good and is now being called a “champion” at school.
Ardi Rizal went viral in 2010 for smoking 40 cigarettes a day while riding his tricycle around a poor village in Sumatra, Indonesia. With the aid of the Indonesian government, Ardi was able to kick his smoking addiction in just two years through a special rehabilitation program. The government got involved after several other children picked up the habit in smaller villages.
“At first when we were weaning Ardi off the cigarettes he would have terrible tantrums,” Ardi’s mother, Diane Rizal, said at the time. “But now he doesn’t want them.”
But the child’s smoking addiction was quickly replaced with an addiction to food. Without his 40 cigarettes a day, Ardi reportedly began eating a lot of junk food and drinking about three cans of condensed milk every day.
Diane said Ardi’s cravings would become so intense that he would bang his head on the wall for extra meals. She found it far more difficult to get her son to stop eating extra food.
Ardi reached 53 pounds at just 5 years old. The Rizal family decided to take action. They took Ardi to a nutritionist for medical check ups, and put the boy on a strict diet. Pediatric specialist Dr. William Nawawi said smoking may have played a factor in Ardi’s weight issues.
“The blood will not be able to break glucose from food,” Dr. Nawawi explained. “This will make Ardi become bigger and bigger.”
But after four years of no smoking and a strict diet consisting of fruits and vegetables, Ardi managed to lose weight dramatically. Now, at 9 years old, Ardi is as healthy as he’s ever been and is even excelling academically at school.
After battling smoking addiction and weight loss, Ardi is now shifting his focus on finishing the fourth grade. President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, Matt Myers, said there is a “perfect storm” in Indonesia.
“It is a government that is failing to protect to its children and an industry that is marketing its products like it was 60 years ago,” Myers told The Sun. “Indonesia has more young people smoking under the age of 10 than any other country that has been identified.
“If you drive around Indonesia you are saturated with tobacco images. Smoking is not just an easy habit to pick up there, it’s the cultural norm, fostered by the kind of advertising we haven’t seen in the West in 50 years.
“It is a failure of government and it is a failure of industry.”