Cicilline, Durbin Reintroduce Bill to Ban Child Labor on Tobacco Farms

Monday, June 12, 2017

WASHINGTON – U.S. Congressman David N. Cicilline (D-RI) and U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) today introduced legislation to protect child workers from the dangers of exposure to tobacco plants, including nicotine poisoning. The Children Don’t Belong on Tobacco Farms Act amends the Fair Labor Standards Act to prohibit children under the age of 18 from coming into direct contact with tobacco plants or dried tobacco leaves. Cicilline and Durbin introduced similar legislation last Congress.

“In 2017, there is no reason for children to be working on tobacco farms. We already know the dangers of exposure to tobacco and nicotine. It’s time we do something about it,” said Cicilline. “I’m proud to be introducing this bill with Senator Durbin today. I know that we will both continue to stand up against this harmful practice.”

“We have known for decades that tobacco companies have no qualms marketing their deadly products to minors, but Big Tobacco’s willingness to exploit children for profit doesn’t end there,” Durbin said. “Child tobacco workers – some as young as eleven or twelve – risk nicotine poisoning and long-term health consequences from handling tobacco plants. We must take immediate action to protect these children before it’s too late.”

Although U.S. law prohibits children under the age of 18 from buying cigarettes, children as young as 12 can work in tobacco fields, where nicotine absorbed through the skin while handling tobacco plants can lead to nicotine poisoning. Tobacco companies and growers’ associations in the U.S. recently adopted voluntary standards to limit child labor in tobacco work. 

Human Rights Watch has reported that:

·         Child tobacco workers began working at age 11 or 12, working 50-60 hours per week.

·         Children worked in hot conditions with jobs ranging from harvesting tobacco plants to applying toxic pesticides.

·         Children experienced nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, dizziness, lightheadedness, headaches, and sleeplessness while working on tobacco farms.

·         Children are directly exposed to those pesticides from spraying fields. Many pesticides used in tobacco production are known neurotoxins. Long-term effects include cancer, neurological deficits, and reproductive health problems.

The Children Don’t Belong on Tobacco Farms Act is supported by more than fifty organizations, including Human Rights Watch.

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