Photo of child with cigarette and drink slammed

Lotto winner's stepson, 3, with smoke and drink

This photo of Trevor Cooper's two stepsons, posted on Facebook, has shocked smoking and alcohol action groups.
This photo of Trevor Cooper's two stepsons, posted on Facebook, has shocked smoking and alcohol action groups.

A photo of a young boy with a cigarette in his mouth and a can of pre-mix spirits in his hand has been slammed by the Children's Commissioner.

The child is the son of Sharie Cooper — wife of Lotto winner Trevor Cooper — and the snap was taken at the couple's wedding last year, when the boy was three.

Cooper scooped almost $27 million in Powerball in 2012 and married Waihi dairy farmer Sharie after a six-month courtship.

Children's Commissioner Dr Russell Wills said the photo of the boy and his older brother, both with what appear to be lit cigarettes, went beyond posing children up as a joke.

"It is in really bad taste," Wills said.

"There is a line you cross from a joke into bad taste and taking advantage of children.

This crosses that line."

The Herald on Sunday was alerted to the photo this week and sent it to Wills. He said anyone who supplied alcohol or cigarettes to a minor was breaking the law and open to police prosecution.

"It is a really stupid thing to do. It is not funny. Supplying alcohol and cigarettes to a child is never in their best interest."

Michael Colhoun from Action on Smoking and Health said the photo was worrying at a time the Government was considering plain packaging to make cigarette smoking less attractive to consumers, especially children.

"This renormalises smoking and the message that it gives this young kid is not a good one. We are working hard to make smoking less normal and the message they are giving this young kid is this is a normal thing to do."

It is not certain if the cigarette was lit or if smoke in the photo was digitally altered, but Colhoun said either way it was not acceptable to put a cigarette in a child's mouth.

Alcohol Healthwatch director Rebecca Williams said exposure to alcohol at a young age was also extremely harmful.

She believed encouraging a child to drink and smoke, or even to pretend, was abuse.

"People say there is personal choice but this kid didn't actually have a choice. He was put in a position of drinking or pretending to drink at an early age where his brain is not developed enough to make a choice.

"They are preparing and grooming that child for future use. If people do think it is acceptable then it shows how far we have to go to."

Comments on Sharie Cooper's Facebook page describe the photo as "cute", "classic" and "cool".

The older brother has also posted the photo on his Facebook page and jokes: "Had to bum a ciggy an a brew of the lil bro for the photo hahaha."

The Coopers did not respond to an interview request.

- Herald on Sunday

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