A Tobacco Control Policy & Legal Resource Center
Supporting Smokefree Air & Tobacco-Free Lives

Child Labor on U.S. Tobacco Farms (NY Times)

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The New York Times has reported that children as young as 7 years old are working as tobacco leaf picking laborers on tobacco farms in the United States, due to no federal law laws that ban such practice. Some companies have started their own policy to have a minimum age for tobacco farm laborers but others do not.

Children working on these farms are experiencing symptoms of nicotine poisoning which can affect brain development in youth.

A federal bill has been introduced to require a minimum age, but the U.S. Department of Labor, at the direction of President Obama, could also issue such a regulation without legislative approval.

On September 6, 2014, the New York Times published a story on children as tobacco farm laborers at United States tobacco farms, and the serious working conditions and negative health effects of exposure to the raw tobacco leaf.

Because federal law and regulations do not define tobacco field work as hazardous, it remains permissible for workers under age 18. Federal law also does not limit on the number of hours her day that children 12 years and older can work on a farm.

This September 2014 NY Times Story cited to the May 2014 Human Rights Watch study  on conditions for children working on tobacco farms in four states where 90 percent of US tobacco is grown: North Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia. Children reported vomiting, nausea, headaches, and dizziness while working on tobacco farms, all symptoms consistent with acute nicotine poisoning. Many also said they worked long hours without overtime pay, often in extreme heat without shade or sufficient breaks, and wore no, or inadequate, protective gear.