Shocking video of Indonesian baby Aldi Rizal smoking 40-cigarettes a day when he was just 2 years old (an addiction he was fortunately able to quit later) went viral all over the world a few years ago. Even now, Aldi and the awful video of him puffing away has become a symbol of Indonesia’s smoking epidemic, which the World Health Organizations says claims about 200,000 lives per year.
Baby Aldi made an appearance on yesterday’s episode of “Last Week With John Oliver,” an HBO program that makes fun of the news in much the same way as America’s “The Daily Show With John Stewart.” Oliver used to be a reporter on the Daily Show but has since earned his own program where he trades rapid fire jokes for longer form segments that use in-depth research to reveal how ridiculous seriously important issues can be.
On last night’s episode, Oliver took on the international tobacco industry, which has propped up lagging sales in western countries (due to anti-smoking regulations) by preying on developing countries such as Indonesia. One of the companies he singles out Philip Morris International, the owner of Sampoerna, the maker of baby Aldi’s favorite brand of cigarettes.
Near the beginning of the segment, baby Aldi makes an appearance wearing an outfit too amazing for Oliver not to comment on…
but the comedian goes on to show footage of Indonesian middle schoolers purchasing cigarettes just meters from their school – a sight which is, sadly, not shocking at all here.
The larger point that Oliver makes is that tobacco companies are fighting tooth and nail to prevent anti-smoking regulations, such as plain package laws, from getting passed in developing countries to protect their poisonous product’s sales.
Indonesia has at least added graphic warnings on packs of cigarettes since baby Aldi picked up his habit (and public outcry here in Indonesia and from abroad over Aldi may well have influenced politicians to get that measure passed). So progress is possible.
But tobacco advertisements and sponsorship are still plentiful and youth smoking is still a common sight. Indonesia has still got a long way to go and some very powerful tobacco companies to beat if it’s ever going to quit its addiction to the world’s deadliest drug.
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