Warning: This is hard to watch. A shocking video has emerged of a little boy — around 3 years old — being coerced by adults to drink beer and smoke cigarettes. The men also tell him that the behavior is “what being a real man is all about.”
The one-minute video was posted to Facebook on Oct. 15 and has garnered 137,000 views and almost 3,000 shares. Daniel Tecu of Madrid, Spain, who initially published it, asked for help in locating the boy’s parents. In the disturbing footage, the little boy, wearing a T-shirt and a baseball cap, sits on the lap of a man who feeds him a burning cigarette and allows him to drink beer from a glass. Another man then lights up a new cigarette for the toddler, while the adults laugh and one says in Romanian, “That’s what being a real man is all about.” Both of the men’s faces are clearly visible.
The legitimacy of the footage hasn’t been proved. But on YouTube and various news outlets, where the video is also posted, commenters are calling the video “horrendous” and “disgusting.”
Toddlers learn to navigate the world by imitating the adults around them. For example, one study published in the journal PLOS ONE found that when babies observed adults picking up a toy with their hand, the “hand area” of the child’s brain lit up. So being around adults who habitually smoke and drink may establish similar behavior in the future. When it comes to alcohol and cigarettes, a study published in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, in which children ages 2 to 6 shopped with dolls in a pretend grocery store, found that toddlers whose parents smoked were four times as likely to buy cigarettes and three times as likely to buy alcohol if their parents drank on a monthly basis.
What’s more, the laughter from the adults in the new footage serves as encouragement for the child to continue the behavior and instills the message that boys who don’t drink and smoke are inadequate and not fulfilling so-called gender roles.
Lastly, there’s the issue of addiction. Who can forget the heartbreaking viral video of Aldi Rizal, the Indonesian baby (then 2 years old) who struggled to break his 40-cigarettes-per-day habit, initially created by his parents?
World, let’s do better.