Tobacco farms

Even though it is illegal for children to purchase cigarettes, they are still allowed to harvest tobacco on farms. With parental consent, child labor laws permit children as young as 7 years old to work on small family farms, however many kids over the age of 12 work on large corporate farms. North Carolina tobacco farmers say they need more labor during harvest season, and kids are under pressure to help support their families. Although tobacco picking is done by machine, much of the rest of the production is done by hand. Workers line up row by row and rapidly move down the lines of plants, removing the buds and flowers, pruning the unwanted shoots, and lifting the plants to remove weeds.

Advocates say that loose regulations and tobacco industry policies have left these kids vulnerable to the health risks of nicotine and pesticide exposure. Interviews of 33 children, ages 13 to 17, who worked on tobacco farms in North Carolina in 2015 revealed that nearly all of them described experiencing nausea, vomiting, headaches, dizziness, skin irritation or respiratory symptoms either during or after work – classic symptoms of nicotine poisoning. Most of these children don't wear gloves because they tend to damage tobacco leaves. Advocates also claim that, in violation of federal laws, child tobacco workers have limited access to handwashing facilities and restrooms, and are not notified when their employers apply pesticides to fields.

Proposed Legislation: Reintroduction of S.2044 - Children Don't Belong on Tobacco Farms Act (117th Congress 2021-2022)
Prospective Sponsor: Sen. Richard Durbin (IL)

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Poll Opening Date
March 13, 2023
Poll Closing Date
March 19, 2023

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