A photo that appears to show a baby with a lit cigarette in her mouth has ignited a resurgence of outrage on Reddit, after a incensed user posted it there over the weekend. It is a disturbing image, depicting the little one with her lips closed around the cigarette as an adult hand supports it. And while it's inspired a new round of condemnation over the weekend, the shot has actually been circulating since 2015. At this point, it's practically the stuff of internet lore — and that includes part in which the woman who gave the baby a cigarette says it was a joke. But if the photo is authentic, how much of a joke could it be?
A Reddit user posted a screenshot of what appears to be an Instagram post Sunday with the username of the person who originally shared it blacked out. The caption endured, though, and it's enough to make anyone with even a passing concern for children's welfare squirm:
It's good to know that the child in the photo isn't in the habit of smoking a pack a day before she can walk, but still.
The relationship between the adult and baby in the photo is unclear, but many Reddit commenters assumed that the child's mother was to blame — and were quick to condemn her. Some comments include:
According to some reports, the person behind the photo — believed at the time to be an 18-year-old from Valencia, Spain — was reported to the authorities after the photo first went live in 2015. Still, it's not clear what, if anything, came of the situation. According to Spain's The Local, the photo was originally captioned "already smoking at a year old, love you little one, you’re my [expletive] life."
It goes without saying, of course, that being around cigarette smoke is terrible to babies and children. For example, a mom who smokes while she's pregnant runs the risk of having a stillbirth, premature delivery, or a baby with a low birth weight; Being exposed to cigarette smoke in utero deprives babies of oxygen, which will have an adverse effect on their growth and development, according to BabyCenter. Kids who grow up around parents who smoke are more likely to develop asthma, respiratory infections, ADHD and other learning issues cancer, diabetes, heart problems, are more.
It's a bleak accounting of unnecessary harms. So, if the photo is legitimate, let's all hope that the baby pictured never had more than that one puff.