U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) | Contributed photo
U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) and U.S. Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) want to ensure that child workers are protected from the dangers of exposure to tobacco plants by introducing legislation on Thursday titled the Children Don’t Belong on Tobacco Farms Act.
The bill amends the Fair Labor Standards Act and seeks to prohibit youths under age 18 from coming into direct contact with tobacco plants or dried tobacco leaves.
“We have known for decades that tobacco companies have no qualms peddling their deadly product to young people, but Big Tobacco’s willingness to exploit children for profit doesn’t stop there,” Durbin said. “Child tobacco workers – some as young as 11 or 12 – risk nicotine poisoning and other health effects every day they go to work. That needs to change.”
“It’s unconscionable that American children as young as 12 years old are being exposed to deadly carcinogens and toxins when they go to work on a tobacco farm,” Cicilline said. “Voluntary industry standards do not go far enough – there is a clear need for legal prohibitions that will protect children from the dangers of tobacco and nicotine.”
The legislation was spurred by a Human Rights Watch report last year that highlighted hazardous conditions on tobacco farms where children work.