Many parts of New York have worked to increase the legal age of buying tobacco to 21 years old. In the Philippines, children as young as 7 years old are forced to work in US tobacco fields. Is that enough to motivate you to stop supporting the tobacco industry? The Human Rights Watch has detailed accounts from interviews with over 140 children working on farms in North Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia.
Margaret Wurth, co-author of the report has said, “ Farming is hard work anyway, but children working on tobacco farms get so sick that they throw up, get covered in pesticides, and have no real protective gear.” Children interviewed have reported that they work long hours in extensive heat, with little to no protective gear. Overtime pay and break time is non-existent. The children experienced headaches, nausea, and vomiting during the work day. According to the New York Post, the symptoms reported are consistent with those of Green Tobacco Sickness. This occurs when workers absorb nicotine through their skin while handling the plants. United States law allows children 12 and older to work on farms. The only restriction is that they can not work on the field during school hours. They can work at any other time and hours usually increase during the summer months: the sun is hot, the days are long, and tobacco season is at its peak. It is absurd that in 2014 we still have children working on labor farms. It is inhumane and extremely dangerous. As the nypost reports, “In 2011, the Labor Department proposed changes that would have prohibited children under 16 working on tobacco farms, but were withdrawn in 2012.” The current agricultural labor laws in the United States allow children to work longer hours and under more extensive and dangerous conditions than any other industry.