Indonesian Tobacco Farms Put Big Profits Over Lives of Child Laborers

The farming of tobacco is a long and arduous process, especially when crops of it are harvested by hand. It is a difficult job for a man to do, let alone a child, but still, children are taking part in the process. Those under the age of 15 are not legally allowed to hold jobs in Indonesia. It goes against child labor laws. Indonesian farms that grow tobacco for popular cigarette brands such as “Lucky Strike” have been employing them though, and it is making the children sick with an illness locals call “green tobacco sickness”. It stems from the absorption of nicotine and pesticides through the skin. The symptoms of vomiting and dizziness worsen as exposure increases. Some develop lung problems. Others break out in rashes.

Major cigarette companies who purchase tobacco from farms that support child labor are aware that the practice exists, but they do little to stop it. They claim that they have repeatedly warned farmers who grow tobacco crops for them to only employ those of legal age, but no mention has ever been of legal action being taken to punish them in any way if they don’t heed the warnings. There have also been no attempts to get medical treatment for the children still enduring side effects from their exposure, even though the long-term consequences could prove detrimental to their physical and mental well-being.