Tobacco farming: Child labour under the spotlight in US nicotine production.news.com.au. March 20, 2015. THEY are not legally old enough to even buy a packet of cigarettes, yet workers as young as 12 are being slowly poisoned by nicotine.But they are not smokers, instead they are getting sick from working on tobacco farms. The numbers of young workers displaying symptoms of nicotine poisoning was highlighted in a Human Rights Watch report last year and is now the subject of an online petition.In its 2014 report, Tobacco’s Hidden Children, Human Rights Watch revealed how child workers are exposed to hazardous chemicals and are slowly being poisoned by this line of work.Read also: Nicotine poisoning in Malawi’s childrens
Cultivo de tabaco en Misiones
The report went on to reveal the conditions children face working on tobacco farms in four states where 90 per cent of US tobacco is grown including North Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia.Margaret Wurth, children’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch and co-author of the report, said children were being exposed to dangerous nicotine without smoking a single cigarette.
Young workers have reported experiencing symptoms of tobacco poisoning.Source: News Limited
The report found child workers experienced vomiting, nausea, headaches, and dizziness while working on tobacco farms, which HRW said were all symptoms consistent with acute nicotine poisoning, also known as green tobacco sickness.And while some inroads has been made since the report was released in May 2014, an online petition is calling for the US government to go even further.Online campaigning community Avaaz.org has launched a petition calling on the US government to take regulatory action to ban children from this kind of hazardous work.The petition, which already has more than 27,000 signatures, states children’s developing bodies absorb dangerous levels of nicotine.It also called for a change in US laws which allow tobacco farms to hire young kids to work the fields.The team wants to garner 50,000 signatures urging President Barack Obama to take immediate action to stop youngsters working on the farms.WORKING HORROR:The petition is the latest step in a campaign to better protect young workers, many of whom are from migrant backgrounds and are vulnerable to exploitation.In the May 2014 report, HRW revealed the horrific stories of some children faced with some working overtime without pay, and in extreme heat.Others told how they had insufficient breaks and worked without protective gear.One worker, aged 16, told HRW how hot it was working in the sun.“You want to throw up. And you drink water because you’re so thirsty, but the water makes you feel worse.“You throw up right there when you’re cutting [tobacco plants], but you just keep cutting.”One boy, aged just 12, who works on a farm in North Carolina, said the headaches he suffered were shocking.“It was horrible. It felt like there was something in my head trying to eat it.”A worker harvests tobacco at a farm in the US state of Kentucky.Source: Getty Images
INROADS BEING MADE:US tobacco giant Altria Group has already prohibited growers in its supply chain from hiring children under 16.Before the change which took effect from this year, Altria Group — which includes three tobacco companies, including Philip Morris USA, the country’s largest cigarette company — deferred to US labour law for the minimum age to work, HRW said.This law allows children as young as 12 to work an unlimited amount of time outside of school hours on a farm of any size, and has no minimum age for children to work on small farms.HRW said such the move by such a major company was an important one and should be used to protect all child workers.
____________________________________________________________________________________________________Watch related video, MADE IN THE USA: Child Labor & Tobacco