Kids Toil, Get Sick in Philip Morris Tobacco Fields

Children absorb nicotine equivalent to 36 cigarettes a day
By Jane Yager,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 14, 2010 7:36 AM CDT
Kids Toil in Philip Morris' Tobacco Fields
A tobacco field, a particularly hazardous environment for child laborers.   (Shutter Stock)

In the tobacco fields that supply a Philip Morris factory in Kazakhstan, child laborers as young as 10 encounter such high doses of nicotine that they feel dizzy, vomit, and develop rashes on their necks and stomachs, a condition known as "green tobacco sickness." Other migrant tobacco workers have only pesticide-contaminated water to drink and are forced to work without pay. These are some of the many allegations in a new report by Human Rights Watch that accuses the international tobacco giant of benefiting from child labor in Kazakhstan.

Child farm labor is widespread in Kazakhstan, but tobacco harvesting is especially hazardous because children's smaller bodies make them more vulnerable to nicotine absorbed through the skin. In a single day, a laborer's skin takes in the nicotine equivalent to smoking 36 cigarettes. In response to the report, Philip Morris said it is opposed to child labor and will change its purchasing policies there, the New York Times reports.
(Read more Philip Morris stories.)

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