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Children Exposed to Danger While Working on US Tobacco Farms (Video)

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Children under the age of 18 cannot buy cigarettes, but they can harvest tobacco for multibillion dollar companies and work 60 hours a week in dangerous conditions.

A new study from Human Rights Watch (HRC) found that child workers on U.S. tobacco farms are exposed to nicotine, toxic pesticides and dangerous heavy machinery.

It's all legal, thanks to deregulation of labor laws in agriculture (video below).

U.S. laws allow children over the age of 11 to work unlimited hours on farms as long as their parents give permission. 258,800 children under 18 years old worked on farms in 2012. Some kids as young as 7 years old ended up working in the fields as well.

The child labor occurs in North Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia where 90 percent of U.S. tobacco is grown. Many children work long hours in extreme heat, do not get overtime pay, drinking water, access to the bathrooms, breaks, or protective gear.

When the kids are given drinking water, the tobacco farming companies deduct it from their pay.

The HRC report says that child workers on tobacco farms experience vomiting, nausea, headaches and dizziness, which are all symptoms of nicotine poisoning. This can lead to cancer just like adult smokers get.

According to ColorLines.com, the report says the tobacco companies that profit from this dangerous child labor include: Marlboro, Newport, Camel, Winston, Parliament, Virginia Slims and Pall Mall.

Philip Morris International told The Courier-Journal that it opposes work for children under 15. Philip Morris International also claimed that it won't allow kids under 18 to do hazardous work.

“As the school year ends, children are heading into the tobacco fields, where they can’t avoid being exposed to dangerous nicotine, without smoking a single cigarette” stated Margaret Wurth, co-author of the HRC report. “It’s no surprise the children exposed to poisons in the tobacco fields are getting sick.”

Sources: ColorLines.com, The Courier-Journal, Human Rights Watch

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