Sunday, July 13, 2014

Pick a loser

As a follow up to my last post regarding e-cigarettes I'd like to share another issue about tobacco.  I was catching up on episodes of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and watched an excellent piece on tobacco farming and child labor laws.  This shocking situation has also been reported on by the BBC, NPR, various local news stations and is being monitored by Human Rights Watch.  Apparently children as young as 12 can legally work on farms.  There is NO minimum age on small farms.  Children are working ridiculously long hours in unsafe conditions and without personal protective equipment.  They are being sickened and poisoned by contact with the tobacco leaves and pesticides.  Yet under pressure from big agriculture in 2012, the Labor Department withdrew a proposal to more strictly regulate the age and conditions of child farm laborers.  The tobacco companies response to child laborers?  Well, they are certainly "concerned."  (Yep, that's pretty much it.)  It is sickening to know that children are working under terrible conditions, using dangerous equipment and being exposed to harmful chemicals.  It is even more disgusting that this occurs in an industry that grows a toxic product that destroys people's health and causes cancer while making billions of dollars in profit in the process. And, of course, the US government gets it share through taxes.  So what if a few kids get harmed?  After all, they get the benefit of helping their families make money and learning the value of hard work.  That's the farmers' perspective.  Well, whatever helps you sleep at night.  But I think that in an industry that makes this much money in a country where we claim we are so concerned about human rights, more can be done to protect these kids.  What do you think?

For a great summary of the HRW report and excellent video, (the boys featured are remarkable,) view the following BBC report:

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