July 1, 2022

Political inaction as minors work tobacco farms

Human rights groups have expressed grave concern about the employment of young children on tobacco farms around the US.

Human rights groups have expressed grave concern about the employment of young children on tobacco farms around the US.

Thousands of children work on plantations in America, despite multiple studies identifying grave risks posed to adolescent health. A report released by Human Rights Watch (HRW) last May that found children who work on tobacco farms are more at risk of getting cancer, living with reproductive health issues and suffering from permanent neurological damage, among other side effects. The children, generally of a Hispanic migrant background, work on the farms to supplement low family incomes.

But State legislatures appear inactive. A bill to regulate the practice recently was debated in Virginia but was voted down.

After significant lobbying, a number of large tobacco companies and associations have implemented policies that ban employing workers under 16.

Anti-tobacco activist Laura Graen believes the move is long overdue. “While any move to improve its business practices is welcome, given its history, it seems the tobacco industry is more focused on doing the right thing for its public image than safeguarding the rights of child workers.”

Later this year Rhode Island Congressman David Cicilline (D) is expected to reintroduce a federal bill that would prohibit children under the age of 18 from working in direct contact with tobacco.

Despite the apparent political inaction up until now, Jo Becker of HRW’s children’s rights division is enthusiastic about the recent attention:

“There’s certainly been a lot of interest [at a national level]”. 

Minors at risk on tobacco farms while politicians remain inactive
Xavier Symons
https://www.bioedge.org/images/2008images/n-TOBACCO-FARMING-CHILDREN-large570.jpg
Creative commons
human rights
minors
tobacco