Children as young as seven toil away in sweltering heat, harvesting pesticide-laden tobacco and facing high-volume nicotine exposure in the US south to satisfy the demand of global cigarette manufacturers, a report by the Human Rights Watch reveals.
The 138-page report, ‘Tobacco’s Hidden Children: Hazardous Child Labor in US Tobacco Farming’, gives a startling look of the often perilous conditions in which minors toil away in the United States’ tobacco heartland.
The report culls its information from interviews with more than 140 children working the fields in North Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia – where 90 percent of the country’s tobacco is grown.
Many of the child workers report frequently getting sick with vomiting, nausea, headaches and dizziness; all of which are symptoms of ‘Green tobacco sickness’ – acute nicotine poisoning. Working 50-60 hours a week, often without overtime pay and in intense heat, they are also exposed to pesticides known neurotoxins.