A recent report from the Human Rights Watch has detailed the dismal position of children’s rights around the world. The aptly named report, “Tobacco’s Hidden Children: Hazardous Child Labor in US Tobacco Farming”, implicates several tobacco companies for engaging in the illegal practice of child labor; hiring children under the age of eighteen to do menial and often highly dangerous jobs. According to the report conducted by the Human Rights Watch, children age 7 and above are working in grueling jobs in tobacco farms around the United States, and many are left with sicknesses due to the nature of the work.
Child labor is a worldwide issue, with children in dozens of countries being employed in hazardous working conditions by big name brands such as Apple and Coca Cola. However, companies in the tobacco industry are some of the biggest offenders of utilizing child labor on a mass scale. Companies like Marlboro and Lucky Strike are forcing children to work in horrible conditions, not only in the US, but in tobacco farms all around the world, Indonesia being another area where child labor is rampant. Many children work without sufficient protective gear for an ungodly amount of hours every day, and as a result, often suffer diseases, such as nicotine poisoning.
The work that these children endure is often more akin to torture than a job; many children have testified to severe vomiting, painful headaches and nausea, all of which are due to the nicotine poisoning that they are highly likely to contract while working on these tobacco farms. In addition to these symptoms, the children on these farms are provided with no safety training and/or safety gear, which increase the likelihood of disease and illness. One child working on a tobacco farm, Dario A. told the Human Rights Watch about this experience on a tobacco farm; “The hardest of all the crops we’ve worked in is tobacco. You get tired. It takes the energy out of you. You get sick, but then you have to go right back to the tobacco the next day.” His testimony, and others like it, highlights the highly hazardous and torturous nature of the situation these children are being placed in.
Equally as appalling as the hazardous work conditions is the fact that US Labor Laws do not provide sufficient protection to children working in farms such as these. Children as young as 12 years of age can legally work on farms if parental permission is provided, no matter what dangers the job entails. To make matters worse, the White House officially decided to scrap certain laws that prevented children from working on agricultural jobs that had been deemed overtly dangerous. These laws are preposterous to say the least and are endangering the lives of countless children.
The tobacco companies that hold a monopoly over the business are the root of this issue, and while they are not the only offenders in the field of child labor, they are definitely very large contributors to the issue. If the law will not cease this barbaric practice, the public must act decisively. The focus of the public’s efforts should be placed upon a large company that is monopolizing cigarettes; Marlboro. By boycotting their products and refusing to buy cigarettes that are a result of child labor, the public can make a difference to the children who are suffering in tobacco farms all around the world.