Legislation Agriculture, forestry and fishing

Worker advocates praise Virginia bill to ban child tobacco labor


Photo: Lekyum/iStock/Thinkstock

Richmond, VA – A Virginia lawmaker recently introduced a bill that would prohibit children younger than 18 from working in the state’s tobacco fields.

Child labor and safety advocates praised the bill (H.B. 1906), which was authored by Delegate Alfonso Lopez (D-Arlington). The National Consumers League described the action as a “hopeful sign” that all children in the United States eventually will be protected from the safety and health risks that arise from harvesting tobacco.

The bill would exempt children who work on their family farms.

A 2014 survey conducted by Human Rights Watch showed that almost 75 percent of tobacco workers 7-17 years old reported symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, headaches, breathing difficulties, and eye and mouth irritation. Based on the findings, Human Rights Watch said no one younger than 18 should be permitted to work a job in which they come into direct contact with tobacco.

“We urge Virginia lawmakers to support this bill, and other tobacco-producing states to follow suit to protect America’s most vulnerable workers – children in tobacco fields,” Sally Greenberg, executive director of the National Consumers League and co-chair of the Child Labor Coalition, said in a press release.