Speed Reads

This is terrible

Nicotine poisoning is sickening child laborers on American tobacco farms


Children under the age of 18 can't legally buy cigarettes in the U.S. — but as long as they're 12 years old they can pick the tobacco that goes into them. That's one of several shocking findings in a new report from Human Rights Watch, which concludes that tobacco companies "benefit from hazardous child labor."

Several hundred thousand children work on tobacco farms in the U.S. thanks to labor law loopholes that permit children to begin work at a younger age, and to work longer hours, in agricultural settings, according to the report. And since nicotine can be absorbed through the skin, children — who are already more susceptible to its effects — often become ill when handling the plants.

Of the child laborers interviewed by HRW, two-thirds reported symptoms indicating nicotine poisoning; more than half reported having pesticides sprayed nearby while working, which made them "vomit, feel dizzy, and have difficulty breathing." --Jon Terbush