Thirty-five House Democrats are urging President Obama’s administration to prohibit children from working on tobacco farms, citing concerns about the health risks associated with such work, according to a story by Frederic J. Frommer for the Evansville (Indiana) Courier & Press.
The lawmakers, led by House Representatives David Cicilline and Matt Cartwright, made their plea in a letter to Labor Secretary Thomas Perez. A copy of the letter was obtained by The Associated Press on Tuesday.
In 2012, the Labor Department withdrew a proposed rule that would have banned young people under 16 from several kinds of agriculture work, including that on tobacco farms.
In their letter, the lawmakers, all Democrats, urged a narrower ban that would deal solely with children on tobacco farms.
The letter does not specify an age limit, but a spokesman for Cicilline said he and other lawmakers would prefer the ban to apply to young people under 18.
Cicilline has a bill in Congress that would amend the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 to ban young people under 18 from jobs where they had direct contact with tobacco plants or leaves.
The lawmakers cited a Human Rights Watch report issued in May that said nearly three-quarters of the child workers it interviewed reported vomiting, nausea and headaches while working on tobacco farms. Those symptoms are consistent with nicotine poisoning often called green tobacco sickness, which occurs when workers absorb nicotine through their skin while handling tobacco plants.
The report was based on interviews with more than 140 children working on farms in North Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia, where a majority of the country’s tobacco is grown.