This shocking video appears to show a young child, wearing only a nappy, smoking a marijuana joint and being encouraged to inhale by an adult in the room.

The video has gone viral online, receiving thousands of likes and comments on Facebook and attracting the attention of authorities in Chicago, where the film originally came to light.

Puffing out plumes of thick smoke and inhaling frequently, the toddler, who sits on a red and blue play-chair, is told by an adult male in the room, possibly filming the incident, to "smoke man" and "inhale it". The man makes noises imitating the smoking before asking the child to: "Let me hit that, OK?"

NBC Chicago reported while official complaints have been made over the video, because it is not clear whether the child is in the State of Illinois, the Illinois Attorney General's office said it is not currently investigating the video. The Illinois Department of Children has not confirmed if it will investigate.

Chicago Community activist Andrew Holmes first brought the video to the attention of police. "This is sickening," Holmes said In a televised interview with the NBC affiliate. "This child needs help ASAP if he hasn't had help already. It's disturbing to hear the adult that was in the background telling the child to inhale."

Chicago police department has asked individuals who recognise the child to come forward as a matter of urgency over the complaint of child endangerment.