Police in Germany have launched a child abuse investigation after a baby was pictured smoking on the Facebook profile of a man who lives in Kassel, Hesse state. The picture shows an adult hand placing a lit cigarette in the infant's mouth.

Police stress that they have not determined whether the baby belongs to the man, believed to be a Bulgarian, whose Facebook profile was used to upload the photo.

However local reports have claimed that it is the man's daughter. The photograph has since been removed from the profile.

Nor is it the only picture of children smoking to have appeared on the man's profile, Hessische Niedersächsische Allgemeine reports.

Others included, a woman with a small boy sat on her lap while both of them smoke cigarettes, and a picture of the same boy smoking a cigarette in a home.

These photographs have all been removed after the man reportedly received a wave of criticism and abuse for the content. It is illegal for under-18s to smoke in Germany.

"There is a suspicion of a criminal offence," said Matthias Mänz, spokesman of the police in Kassel.

The suspect is reportedly from the the Bulgarian city of Loma – on the border with Romania. The girl in the picture had her ears pierced.

Although it is now widely regarded as unacceptable for children to smoke in the developed world, there remain notable exceptions.

In eastern Appenzell, eastern Switzerland, children smoke cigarettes, pipes and cigars during traditional cattle shows.

Outside of the developed world, child smoking is far more prevalent. In April, it emerged that an Indonesian two-year-old, Ardi Rizal, was smoking 40 a day.

In 2016, the World Health Organization called on governments to rate films that show characters smoking as "adult only". The move would prevent children and adolescents from using various forms of tobacco, it argued.