US: Child Workers in Danger on Tobacco Farms

A Human Rights Watch report which included interviews with more than 100 child tobacco farm laborers in the South of the US has ruled that tobacco farming is so hazardous to children, it must be stopped.

The report documents how children are sickened by nicotine and toxic pesticides, work long hours in extreme heat without overtime pay, shade or sufficient breaks, use dangerous tools and machinery, and climb several stories without protection to hang tobacco in barns. Children reported vomiting, nausea, headaches and dizziness while working on tobacco farms, which are symptoms consistent with acute nicotine poisoning.

 

The world’s largest tobacco companies buy tobacco grown on U.S. farms, but none have child labor policies that sufficiently protect children from hazardous work.

Matt Meyer’s from the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids:

“It is outrageous that in 2014, kids are still working on tobacco farms, putting their health and safety at risk. Tobacco manufacturers must be held accountable because even though they don’t own the tobacco farms, they contract directly with growers and have the ability to control who works in the fields. This report demonstrates that the tobacco industry cannot be trusted to police itself, and it is time for strong, well-enforced laws and regulations that prohibit the use of child labor on tobacco farms.

This report is yet another example of the tobacco industry’s disregard for the health of children. Tobacco companies have a long history of marketing to kids – called “replacement smokers” in industry documents – and 90 percent of adult smokers start at or before age 18. According to the latest Surgeon General’s report, 5.6 million U.S. children alive today will die prematurely from smoking-caused disease unless current trends are reversed.”