The US Government Should Take Action

Each year, when school lets out for the summer, children as young as 12 — and sometimes younger — start working long hours tending tobacco in Virginia and other big tobacco states. They absorb nicotine, get sprayed with pesticides and use sharp axes to cut down tobacco taller than they are. Children are especially vulnerable to nicotine poisoning because of their size and stage of development. A recent report from the Surgeon General suggested nicotine exposure during adolescence may have lasting consequences for brain development. Under federal labor law, allowing the kids to work there, is legal. Twelve-year-old children in the U.S. can be hired to work unlimited hours as long as they are out of school, on tobacco farms. Under a decades-old loophole in the Fair Labor Standards Act, children can work in agriculture at younger ages, for longer hours, and in more hazardous conditions, than in any other line of work. There are no federal provisions to restrict children from working with tobacco. We need to take care of this serious issue. Many tobacco companies have placed their own restrictions on farms that supply their tobacco. Why isn't the government doing the same?

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