We have all seen the ads about child labor in third world countries and how we should not buy this product or that product because it is made by children in poor working conditions. Typically we look past these ads and act like child labor is not an issue because it is not happening here in America so it does not apply to us. However, this new report from the Human Rights Watch nonprofit group highlights the issue of child labor on tobacco farms here in America.
Even though it is surprising that child labor is happening in our backyard, it is not surprising that the tobacco industry is the cause o it. The tobacco industry is the most manipulative industry in the world and is known for their history of deception and lies. This new report exposes their actions and tells the real life stories of the children that work on these dangerous farms; some as young as 7. It also shows us that child labor is still a huge issue in America that most of us overlook. Children (under the age of 18) can work in agriculture as young as the age of 12 with parental consent and children under 12 can work along-side a parent in an agricultural occupation.
Most of these workers are migrants from other countries that moved to America for a better life, but at the farms they are exposed to hazardous chemicals, dangerous working conditions, long rigorous hours and unfair pay. The tobacco from these farms are bought by the 5 largest tobacco industries in the world. Most of these companies deny that there is an issue with child labor on their tobacco farms and have implemented guidelines (safety precautions) to make the working conditions “safer.” However, these workers are being exposed to nicotine poisoning because of the nicotine that is being absorbed through their skin. The symptoms of nicotine poisoning are nausea, vomiting, headaches, etc. As well, they are being exposed to dangerous pesticide chemicals that are being used in the fields and they work with dangerous equipment that can cut them during harvest. To dry the tobacco they have to hang it from the rafters of old barns; which is another risk because of the heights that these children have to climb to.
It is awful that child labor is still an issue in America and there is obviously a lot that we can, and should, improve in our system. The government should step in and regulate child labor more in the agriculture industry so that all children are protected from unfair treatment like this. It is illegal for individuals under the age of 18 to buy tobacco products, but it is legal for them to work on a tobacco farm and still expose themselves to the harmful chemicals. Individuals under the age of 18 should not be allowed to legally work on tobacco farms. The Human Rights Watch group has done an amazing job with this report and creating supporting content to go along with it. They have created a petition that people can sign to urge the tobacco industries to stop using children to harvest their products.