Young Kids Working in US Tobacco Fields
Human Rights Watch issues scathing report
By Kevin Spak, Newser User
Posted May 14, 2014 1:44 PM CDT
Farm workers make their way across a tobacco field shrouded in fog near Warsaw, Ky., in this July 10, 2008 file photo.   (AP Photo/Ed Reinke, File)

(Newser) – Children are toiling in unsafe conditions, suffering everything from breathing problems to vomiting, and putting in 12-hour days and 72-hour weeks. Think we're talking a third-world sweatshop? It's what's happening right now on US tobacco farms, Human Rights Watch alleges in a report today. The group spoke to 141 tobacco farm workers aged 7 to 17, and found that many came in bare-skin contact with tobacco plants. That can cause acute nicotine poisoning—and indeed, 66% of those polled reported symptoms consistent with that, including dizziness, nausea, and headaches.

"On the first day when I was working [chemicals] got on my face a lot and I didn't know until I got home later that my face was burning," one 13-year-old worker tells the BBC. US labor laws protecting child laborers have exceptions for agricultural jobs, the group explains, allowing children of any age to work the fields, and those 12 and older to work unlimited hours. An attempt to change that for tobacco farms died in 2012. HRW shared its findings with tobacco producers, and most expressed concern. Philip Morris, which has the toughest child labor policy, tells Reuters that it believes there's an opportunity to impose an industry-wide standard. The complete report is here.

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Showing 3 of 114 comments
Chris Farley
May 15, 2014 11:06 AM CDT
Also Nicotine is used as a pestaside on a lot of plants. Lots of crops are picked by day labor.
questioneverything
May 15, 2014 8:23 AM CDT
Oh great now we have human watch groups monitoring us in our own country. America continues to go downhill. Used to be we were the leader in most things,,,,,now we are following the British model and our empire is falling. Sad. Anyway....the "Kids" they are speaking about are just undocumented wet backs......so it doesn't really matter. Right? Think about it..........
Chris Farley
May 15, 2014 7:41 AM CDT
This happens in most agg industries. children and undocumented. The real threat is the chemicals the plants are sprayed with. Nicotine overdoses would be stopped by following the law and using gloves. Everyone reading this is using something or eating something today that was produced by children. Is it a good thing, probably not.