Worldwide, approximately 10 million cigarettes are purchased a minute, 15 billion are sold each day, and upwards of 5 trillion are produced and used on an annual basis (Martin). As the demand for tobacco continuously increases, so does the mass production of this product. Requiring 33 million workers at the early stages of the processing of tobacco and 100 million workers in all stages of the production, the production and labor of tobacco is strenuous (ILRF). Many people are unaware of the cruel child labor that occurs in this industry. In order to support their family, children are forced to in tobacco fields under horrible conditions. Due to a loophole in the United State child labor laws, thousands of children suffer at the expense of wealthy tobacco industry owners. People believe smokers are the victims of tobacco but children are victims legally, academically, and physically.
It is illegal for anyone under 18 to smoke tobacco but somehow children legally work in the tobacco fields. Under the loophole in U.S. child labor law there is no minimum age for work on small farms with parental permission, and children ages 12 and up may work for hire on any size farm for unlimited periods outside school hours (Elaws). Only Congress can change the law and give protection to these children working long hours on the farms. The Labor Department tried last year to update and add tobacco to the list of hazardous jobs for children for the first time in decades, but failed because family farms are completely exempt (Elaws). Farm owners beat the system by allowing their entire family to work under one person’s social security number or by hiring a farm contractor who counts as only one employee but goes out and hires whomever they wish. Some Americans are unaware of these major problems in our government. America's youngest and poorest workforce shouldn't be forgotten. In the upcoming campaign, child labor needs to be brought to attention. The government should amend U.S. child labor law to provide the same protections to all working children.
Children spend all their time and energy in the fields, which prevent them from getting a good education. Even if they do attend some sort of schooling, they are too tired to give full attention and receive good grades. The children that work in the tobacco do not develop simple life skills that help them in the future. They will continue working manual labor for the rest of their lives without an opportunity to increase their standard of living. Without the ability to find better paying jobs, due to a lack of education, the workers’ children will also be forced into the tobacco industry to help support their family. This cycle will continue for future generations and ruin these children’s dreams.
Children are subjected to hazardous manual labor, physical strain, and dangerous environments. The children are forced to do physical tasks such as clearing the land, building tobacco-drying sheds, weeding and plucking tobacco. Some others are given the task of applying pesticide