RICHMOND, Va. - An international rights group is pushing the federal government and the tobacco industry to take further steps to protect children working on U.S. tobacco farms.
A report released Wednesday by Human Rights Watch claims that children as young as 7 are sometimes working long hours in fields harvesting nicotine- and pesticide-laced tobacco leaves under sometimes hazardous conditions. Most of what the group documented is legal, but it wants cigarette makers to push for safety on farms from which they buy tobacco.
Human Rights Watch 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 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.
Human Rights Watch met with many of the world's biggest cigarette makers and tobacco suppliers to discuss its findings and push them to adopt or strengthen policies to prevent the practices in their supply chains.
The companies say they 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.