The National Consumers League, is calling for a ban on child labor in U.S. family tobacco fields. According to a Human Rights Watch report published earlier this year, children as young as 12 years old are being permitted to work in the fields in tobacco-producing states including North Carolina, Kentucky, Virginia, and Tennessee. The call for a ban is because the groups claim non-adults are being exposed to dangerous levels of nicotine and resulting acute nicotine poisoning.

Sally Greenberg, NCL executive director, claims, “While teen smoking rates are at the lowest in decades, we continue to allow thousands of American children to toil in our tobacco fields, exposing them to nicotine levels that, at times, are the equivalent of 36 cigarettes per day.”

The NCL has found what they think is a way to attack the exemption for children of farmers to be allowed to do farm labor and help around the farm. The NCL calls farm labor hazardous work in which children should never be engaged, and the organization is using the claim that children working in tobacco fields are poisoned to the point of nausea, vomiting, headaches and dizziness.  

Greenberg’s organization is launching a campaign “to raise consumer awareness about this hidden practice in American agriculture and advocate for its abolition.”

“A 12-year-old cannot legally buy cigarettes in the United States, but it is legal for him or her to work in a tobacco field for 10- to 12- hours a day in 100-degree heat and suffer repeated bouts of nicotine poisoning,” said Reid Maki, NCL director of child labor issues. “It doesn’t pass the commonsense test, and something must be done.”

For decades, advocates at the National Consumers League have called for closing the loopholes that allow young children to work in agriculture.