Aldi Rizal was discovered as a toddler in a poor village in Sumatra, Indonesia, where his mother said he smoked up to 40 cigarettes per day.
His story, which gained international attention, prompted the Indonesian government to launch a campaign against childhood smoking and got Aldi enrolled in a special treatment program to break him of his addiction.
It’s believed that about one-third of Indonesian children try smoking before age 10.
A new documentary series revisits Aldi and his family two years later, and while the 5-year-old has quit smoking, his mother is worried about his weight.
“When Aldi first quit smoking he would demand a lot of toys,” said his mother, Diane Rizal. “He would bang his head on the wall if he couldn’t get what he wanted. That’s why I get him cigarettes in the first place, because of his temper and his crying. Now I don’t give him cigarettes, but he eats a lot. With so many people living in the house it’s hard to stop him from getting food.”
Psychiatrists who treated Aldi to help him break his smoking habit taught his family about the dangers of smoking and encouraged his mother to keep him busy with playing, and one of those doctors still meets regularly with the boy and his relatives.
His mother says people still offer her son cigarettes, but the boy turns them down because he doesn’t want to disappoint his doctors.
Aldi and his parents also meet with a nutritionist, who says the child weighs about 54 pounds, which is well above the 37-pound to 42-pound normal range for a boy his age.
“One obvious thing is they let him have too much condensed milk,” said nutritionist Fransisca Dewi. “He drinks three cans a day and eats too many carbohydrates.”
A pediatric specialist said he’s concerned that smoking at such an early age made Aldi more likely to be overweight.
“Nicotine can increase the endocrine hormone in the body,” said Dr. William Nawawi. “This condition can cause resistance to insulin.”
For now, Aldi has returned to his family’s fishing village and is kept on a strict diet of fresh fruit and vegetables, and doctors hope his weight might balance out as he grows taller.
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