Cigarettes sold in the U.S. and Europe are made using tobacco that is increasingly produced via child labor in poorer nations, an investigation by The Guardian published Monday found.
In places like Malawi, Mexico, Indonesia, Argentina, Zimbabwe, and India, rising numbers of children work in harsh conditions on tobacco fields instead of attending school. Because families working on tobacco plots are often indebted to landowners, they are forced to bring their children into the fields as unpaid labor, continuing the cycle of generational poverty, reports The Guardian.
About 1.3 million children were working in tobacco fields in 2011, the World Health Organization's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control said. Child labor has decreased in many places, but the U.N.'s International Labor Organization says wealthier nations have shrugged the practice off onto poorer countries. "Although there are no estimates of the number of child laborers in tobacco globally," an ILO report read, "surveys indicate that in impoverished tobacco growing communities, child labor is rampant."
Major tobacco companies told The Guardian that they are doing everything they can to combat the use of child labor. Company officials say they tell suppliers not to employ children and work with outside organizations to keep children in school and away from tobacco fields. Despite the commitment and efforts, WHO expert Vera Da Costa e Silva said the circumstances that lead to child labor continue to cycle. "No effective actions have been taken to reverse this scenario," said Silva. Read more at The Guardian.