JEDDAH: A man has been arrested after appearing in a video apparently forcing a child to smoke.
The 10-second video went viral on social media in the past two days and became a public issue. It led the attorney general, Saud Al-Mojeb, to order the arrest of the man in the video.
The video shows a man with a small boy sitting on his lap. He puts a cigarette in the child’s mouth and laughs at his reaction with others who appear to be in the same room.
Khaled Aba Al-Khail, the spokesman for the Ministry of Labor and Social Development, said on Friday that whoever has any information about the video and the person in it should inform the ministry.
The accused person was arrested a day later. Ziad Al-Rikaiti, a spokesperson for the Eastern police department, said the person in the video is a Saudi citizen in his 20s, and the child is the son of one of his relatives.
“It is not permissible for anyone to abuse Internet and social media platforms in a way that violates public decency and security. That includes publishing anything contrary to legal and social values and principles,” the prominent Jeddah lawyer Majed Garoub told Arab News.
“When such occasions happen, the public prosecutor’s office has the right to take the proper action. The potential punishment for such acts is imprisonment and a financial penalty,” he added.
“The law protects children and the family, and in cases of any violations to children’s rights, it is the family affairs judge to assess the suitable punishment for the violator which is consistent with the best interest of the family.”
The father of the child told Saudi newspaper Okaz on Sunday that his son is three, and the man who appeared in the video is his own cousin. He did not have bad intentions, but wanted to scare the child with a lighted cigarette, because his son has a habit of chewing cigarette stubs and the family could not make him stop. Commenters on social media have found the father’s explanation unconvincing.
Talking to Arab News, Dr. Lina Barnawi, a pediatrician from Jeddah, said: “When a child lives in an environment where he’s surrounded by smokers, the child is considered an indirect smoker, therefore, exposed to the harmful effects of smoking such as asthma and lung cancer, etc.”
She said exposure to cigarette smoke might also affect a child’s proper growth and the risk of pulmonary and other diseases increases.
The health expert said there is a misconception among some people that when a child tries a cigarette and he or she hates it and become immune to smoking.
“This idea is totally wrong and has no scientific basis,” said Dr. Barnawi.
She said instead such moves increase the probability of a child taking up this hazardous habit.