clear
Tuesday May 31st, 2016 12:15AM

Report highlights child labor on US tobacco farms

By Ken Stanford Reporter
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) -- You may have to be at least 18 to buy cigarettes in the U.S., but children as young as 7 are working long hours in fields harvesting nicotine- and pesticide-laced tobacco leaves under sometimes hazardous and sweltering conditions, according to a report released Wednesday by an international rights group.

The Human Rights Watch report details findings from interviews with more than 140 children working on farms in North Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia, where a majority of the country's tobacco is grown. The group acknowledges that most of what it documented is legal under U.S. law but aims to highlight the practice and urge both governments and tobacco companies to take further steps to protect children from the hazardous harvesting of the cash crop that has built businesses, funded cities and influenced cultures.

"The U.S. has failed America's families by not meaningfully protecting child farmworkers from dangers to their health and safety, including on tobacco farms," said Margaret Wurth, children's rights researcher and co-author of the report. "Farming is hard work anyway, but children working on tobacco farms get so sick that they throw up, get covered by pesticides and have no real protective gear."

Children interviewed by the group in 2012 and 2013 reported vomiting, nausea and headaches while working on tobacco farms. The symptoms they reported are consistent with nicotine poisoning often called Green Tobacco Sickness, which occurs when workers absorb nicotine through their skin while handling tobacco plants.

The children also said they worked long hours - often in extreme heat - without overtime pay or sufficient breaks and wore no, or inadequate, protective gear.

According to the report, U.S. agriculture labor laws allow children to work longer hours at younger ages and in more hazardous conditions than children in any other industry. With their parent's permission, children as young as 12 can be hired for unlimited hours outside of school hours on a farm of any size. And there's no minimum age for children to work on small farms.

In 2011, the Labor Department proposed changes that would have prohibited children under 16 from working on tobacco farms, but they were withdrawn in 2012.

Human Rights Watch met with many of the world's biggest cigarette makers and tobacco suppliers to discuss its findings and encourage them to adopt or strengthen policies to prevent the practices in their supply chains.

The companies are concerned about child labor in their supply chains and have developed standards, including requiring growers to provide a safe work environment and adhere to child labor laws, the group said.

"The conditions are inhumane and they should improve them," said 17-year-old Erick Garcia, of Kinston, North Carolina, who has been working in tobacco field since he was 11 to help his family earn more money.

Additionally, Garcia said kids should primarily focus on school and shouldn't be in the fields: "That's not a place for children," he said.

Republican Kentucky state Sen. Paul Hornback, who has worked in tobacco fields since he was 10 and now farms about 100 acres of tobacco in Shelby County, Kentucky, said while he adheres to federal regulations to keep his workers safe, he doesn't believe further restrictions are needed.

"People get pretty extreme about trying to protect everybody from everything," Hornback said. "It's hard manual labor, but there's nothing wrong with hard manual labor."
© Copyright 2016 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Judge denies motions to move, delay Tsarnaev trial
Lawyers for Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev asked a federal appeals court Wednesday to overturn a judge's decision to not move his upcoming trial out of state.
10:02PM ( 1 year ago )
High court to adopt electronic filing of cases
The Supreme Court is belatedly developing an electronic filing system similar to those used in courts around the country, Chief Justice John Roberts said Wednesday in his annual end-of-year report.
7:57PM ( 1 year ago )
Storm brings snow, cold to West for New Year's
A blustery winter storm dumped snow and ice across the West on Wednesday, making driving treacherous in the mountains from California to the Rockies and forcing residents and party-goers in some usually sun-soaked cities to bundle up for a frosty New Year's.
5:19PM ( 1 year ago )
U.S. News
State DOT awards $48M contract for NE Ga. road project
The state Department of Transportation has awarded a $47.8 million contract for nine miles of work on a northeast Georgia road.
9:37AM ( 1 year ago )
Business News
Grass fire impacts rush hour traffic on 985
Rush hour traffic on I-985 was slowed by a grass fire Wednesay afternoon with one lane closed while firefighters fought the blaze.
10:19PM ( 1 year ago )
Hall County conviction, sentencing to be reviewed by SCOGA
The State Supreme Court has agreed to hear the appeal of a Hall County man when they reconvene in January.
2:37PM ( 1 year ago )
Maysville man dies from Banks County wreck
The Georgia State Patrol reports that alcohol and/or drugs were factors a single-vehicle wreck that claimed the life of a Maysville man in Banks County Tuesday night.
11:07AM ( 1 year ago )
Local/State News
Amid shouts of 'shame,' House GOP defeats gay rights measure
Democrats shouted "shame," but House Republicans switched their votes and defeated a measure to protect gay rights
8:03PM ( 1 week ago )
CDC director Freiden warns GOP Zika bill is inadequate
The head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned Wednesday that a House GOP measure to combat the Zika virus is inadequate to deal with the swelling threat to public health
7:36PM ( 1 week ago )
Trump unveils list of his top picks for Supreme Court
Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee for president, released Wednesday a list of 11 potential Supreme Court justices he plans to vet to fill the seat of late Justice Antonin Scalia if he's elected to the White House.
3:31PM ( 1 week ago )
1st US penis transplant could bring hope to maimed soldiers
A 64-year-old cancer patient has received the nation's first penis transplant, a groundbreaking operation that may also help U.S. veterans maimed by roadside bombs
8:04PM ( 2 weeks ago )
States dig in against directive on transgender bathroom use
Politicians in Texas, Arkansas and elsewhere are vowing defiance over the Obama administration's new directive on transgender bathroom use
9:19PM ( 2 weeks ago )