Dihan Muhamad, who used to smoke up to two packs of cigarettes a day before cutting down, poses for a photo as he smokes while his mother breast feeds his younger brother at their home in the village near the town of Garut, Indonesia on February 10, 2014.
Dihan Muhamad, who used to smoke up to two packs of cigarettes a day before cutting down, poses for a photo as he smokes while his mother breast feeds his younger brother at their home in the village near the town of Garut, Indonesia on February 10, 2014.Michelle Siu
Dihan Muhamad, who used to smoke up to two packs of cigarettes a day before cutting down, poses for a photo as he smokes while his mother breast feeds his younger brother at their home in the village near the town of Garut, Indonesia on February 10, 2014.
Dihan Muhamad has his first cigarette at 7AM at his home before he attends his first grade class in his village near the town of Garut, Indonesia on February 10, 2014.
Dihan Muhamad smokes in his home in a village near the town of Garut, Indonesia on February 10, 2014.
Groups of children buy single cigarettes and light them at a kiosk after school on February 12, 2014 in Jakarta, Indonesia. The children purchased cigarettes here without age identification and kiosks such as this one can be found near schools around the city.
Children smoke on a public bus home from school on February 12, 2014 in Jakarta, Indonesia. Although there are smoking regulations in public places there is a lack of enforcement.
Ilham Hadi, who has smoked up to two packs a day and began when he was four years old, poses for a photo wearing his third grade uniform while smoking in his bedroom in a village near the town of Sukabumi, Indonesia on February 14, 2014.
Illham Muhamad, who has smoked since he was five years old, poses for a photo as he slowly inhales his first cigarette of the day at his grandmother's home in Indonesia on February 10, 2014. He does not attend school and if his grandmother refuses to give him money to buy cigarettes he will cry and throw fits.
Ompong, which means "toothless" in Bahasa, poses for a photograph as he has a cigarette in South Jakarta, Indonesia on February 14, 2014.
Eman poses for a photo as he smokes a cigarette while clutching a bag of juice in east Jakarta, Indonesia on February 12, 2014.
Rian, who smokes occasionally, poses for a photo as he smokes a cigarette in east Jakarta, Indonesia on February 12, 2014.
Andika Prasetyo, who smokes about a pack a day, has a cigarette outside an internet cafe where children are smoking inside in Depok, West Java, Indonesia on February 15, 2014.
Ilham Hadi, who has smoked up to two packs a day and began when he was four years old, poses for a photo wearing his third grade uniform while smoking in his bedroom as his younger brother looks on in their village near the town of Sukabumi, Indonesia on February 14, 2014.
Dihan Muhamad, who used to smoke up to two packs of cigarettes a day before cutting down, poses for a photo as he smokes
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Michelle Siu
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'Marlboro Boys': Photographing Underage Smoking in Indonesia

Aug 18, 2014

While smoking rates are declining in many western countries, the opposite is happening in the Republic of Indonesia, where over 60% of the male population regularly smokes and uses tobacco. When Canadian photographer Michelle Siu heard about this alarming statistic, she felt it was something she needed to document.

Smoking has become ingrained in Indonesian culture where some children are having their first cigarette by the age of four, Siu tells TIME. "Tobacco consumption in Indonesia is a complex issue as it is intertwined in the country culturally, politically and economically. You can’t take 10 steps before seeing a tobacco advertisement or someone smoking."

Indonesia’s economy is dependent upon the tobacco industry, which has proven to be extremely profitable. Many Indonesians make their livelihood through tobacco farming, and are surrounded by cigarettes from an early age. Smoking regulations in Indonesia are few and far between, and it is not uncommon to see children smoking cigarettes on public buses on their way to and from school. “It’s hard for the government to really want to regulate the industry,” says Siu. “It’s something that they make a lot of money off of.”

As a daughter of immigrant parents, Siu says she is drawn to stories that shed light on “threatened cultures and vulnerable people.”

In Marlboro's Boys, Siu examines the loss of innocence that these young smokers exhibit. “They inhale and exhale like old men that have been smoking for years – some of them have been smoking two packs a day since they were little kids.”

Michelle Siu is a documentary photographer based in Toronto.

Adam Glanzman is a contributor to TIME LightBox. Follow him on Twitter @glanzpiece

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