The use of small children in the field of tobacco is dangerous and is also prohibited worldwide. Yet, children are still a part of tobacco plantation in major producing countries of tobacco.
In the country Malawi itself, there are around 78000 kids working on its plantation. Brazil, USA, Indonesia too are a part of this. It is quite common to witness children working on these farms; despite of several laws given out by USA government in order to protect children from nicotine harm in cigarettes, no restrictions have been placed to secure them from the exposure of nicotine on the fields. Such exposure is said to be quite hazardous for kids especially as their bodies and brain are still developing.
Why are they made to work in the tobacco field?
Kids who are not financially secured have to work in order to generate income for their family and contribute to the living. Since the amount paid by plantation owners and tobacco companies for the tobacco leaf are quite less, the farmers have to struggle to earn money. This results in farmers and their families growing more tobacco, managing it through adult-workforce. As the farmers find it difficult to pay wages to these seasonal workers, they are forced to make their family or relatives work, as they don’t have to pay them. Thus farming of tobacco usually becomes a chore for the families.
How is this bad?
It is highly dangerous as the kids are inevitably exposed to certain chemicals while working on the field. Moreover, the plant of tobacco is itself poisonous. Working on these fields, children could face the following diseases and injures;
- Poisoning; that is, sickness from green tobacco
- Joint and bone deformation that could be caused by holding heavy loads.
- Skin rash, breathing difficulties, chemical poisoning, allergic reactions, vision impairment, infertility, nervous diseases and even liver damage when contacted with certain chemicals like pesticides and fertilizers
- Back pain while harvesting
- Mosquito related diseases and snakebites
- Blisters and cuts
- Fatigue and severe exhaustion
- Redness in the body due to tremendous itching
Moreover, this kind of chore interferes with their development and also hampers their education, hence blocking their way out of poverty and getting them trapped in this cycle. Also, these kids are exploited as the payment of their hard work is not done. Certain rules laid out by the U.S government states that children are allowed to engage in the work that is light and not hazardous in nature. But when it comes to tobacco farming, children suffer. Therefore, kids are not supposed to work on this farm under 18.
How can it be prevented?
- The prices paid by tobacco companies must increase, so that the farmers are able to work without involving their children in the task
- Farmers must develop alternative livelihood
- Tobacco growing areas must have more schools for education
- Parents must send their kids to school and must consider primary education compulsory.