The official position of China’s national government on the subject of smoking is that it’s bad for you and you should stop; better yet, don’t take up the habit in the first place. Excellent advice, but for one particular citizen of the city of Tianjin, alas, it’s too late.
Tong Liangliang is not what you’d call a long-term smoker. In fact, he took up the habit only about half a year ago. In terms of sheer quantity of cigarettes consumed, though, he’s working pretty hard to catch up with the veterans. They say he’s already putting away a pack a day.
Problem is, Tong Liangliang is only two years old!
The toddler has his father to thank for this situation. At the age of only a year-and-a-half, his dad says, little Liangliang suffered from pain from a hernia. But he was too young to undergo surgery at the time, so the man taught him to smoke, thinking it might offer the poor kid some relief.
It’s not clear whether the treatment had the intended effect. It achieved two other tangible results, however. First, it earned the tiny boy the distinction of being what must be the world’s youngest smoker. At the very least, he’s the youngest one able to do his own lighting up, a procedure he pulls off with the practiced style of a 40-year-old, in a spectacle that’s downright eerie to watch.
Second, it presumably ruined little Liangliang’s life. There’s no question the boy has the habit, and he’s got it bad—they say he gets pretty cranky when his cigarette supply runs out. Furthermore, at a pack a day already, it’s hard to imagine the teensy tyke ever growing up and developing like a normal child. Let’s just say that for the moment, at least, Yao Ming doesn’t have much to worry about.