Tags: Human Rights Watch | child labor | tobacco

Report: Health Risks High to Child Tobacco Workers

By    |   Wednesday, 17 Sep 2014 07:40 AM


Many children are spending their summer holidays working in tobacco fields where the hours are long and the dangers of exposure to nicotine are high, according to a recent report by Human Rights Watch.

Tobacco growers mostly in North Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia continue to hire youngsters under 16, often children of migrant workers who are in desperate financial straits, according to The New York Times.

Federal law permits children 12 or older to work in tobacco fields. Human Rights Watch interviewed 141 child workers, including some as young as 7. Three-quarters said they had been made sick by their work, describing symptoms including nausea, dizziness and labored breathing, which are signs of nicotine poisoning. They also face exposure to pesticides, according to Politico.

The children, who sometimes work 50 to 60 hours a week— legally and with their parents' consent — under a blazing sun, plant seedlings, weed tobacco leaves and hand-harvest tobacco plants, Politico reported.

Calls to tighten child labor laws have been opposed by the agricultural industry.

The Obama administration supported then withdrew proposals to curb hazardous jobs, including tobacco field work, for youngsters under age 16, according to Politico.

The Kentucky-based Council on Burley Tobacco said it "does not condone the hiring of anyone under the age of 16 for work in tobacco anywhere in the world," according to Politico. Philip Morris International said it favors toughening child labor laws. It does not hire workers under 18 to do hazardous tobacco farming, the Times reported.

A group of mostly Democratic senators have written to tobacco companies calling on them to back more robust child labor policies. Rep. David Cicilline, D-Rhode Island, has introduced legislation to ban tobacco work by children. He also plans to lobby Labor Secretary Thomas Perez on the issue, according to Politico.

Human Rights Watch was founded in 1978 and has been criticized by conservative and pro-Israel groups for bias.


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Many children are spending their summer holidays working in tobacco fields where the hours are long and the dangers of exposure to nicotine are high, according to a recent report by Human Rights Watch.
Human Rights Watch, child labor, tobacco
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2014-40-17
Wednesday, 17 Sep 2014 07:40 AM
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