‘He can’t quit’: Four-year-old smoker highlights plight of China’s left-behind children

Authorities warn grandparents after footage of boy spreads online

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 24 January, 2018, 1:15pm
UPDATED : Monday, 16 April, 2018, 1:55pm

Authorities in rural southern China have issued a “serious warning” to an elderly couple after photos of their four-year-old “left-behind” grandson smoking cigarettes were shared widely online, the Beijing Youth Daily reports.

The footage has again focused attention on the plight of impoverished children left behind in the care of relatives while their parents seek work elsewhere.

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A neighbour last week uploaded footage of the boy smoking and chewing betel nut in the township of Wentian in Xinhua county, a mountainous area with the lowest average income in Hunan province, the report said.

The boy’s parents are migrant workers and he lives mostly with his grandparents.

Unsupervised for much of the time, the boy “lifted” cigarettes from a shop and picked up butts left by other smokers, the report said.

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“[He] has been smoking for a year or two, can’t quit,” the neighbour was quoted as saying.

Wentian deputy Communist Party secretary Zeng Xiong said local government officials had visited the family and given the boy’s grandparents a serious warning.

Zeng said the boy was taken care of but did not elaborate.

The Chinese government estimates that there are more than 9 million left-behind children in the country.