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Children exposed on U.S. tobacco farms

| May 15, 2014

Children working on tobacco farms in the U.S. are exposed to nicotine, toxic pesticides and other dangers, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a report released yesterday.

“While U.S. law prohibits the sale of tobacco products to children, children can legally work on tobacco farms in the U.S.,” HRW said in a press note announcing the report. “The world’s largest tobacco companies buy tobacco grown on U.S. farms, but none have child labor policies that sufficiently protect children from hazardous work.”

The 138-page report, Tobacco’s hidden children: Hazardous child labor in US tobacco farming, documents conditions for children working on tobacco farms in four states where 90 percent of U.S. tobacco is grown: North Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia.

“Children reported vomiting, nausea, headaches and dizziness while working on tobacco farms, all symptoms consistent with acute nicotine poisoning,” HRW said. “Many also said they worked long hours without overtime pay, often in extreme heat without shade or sufficient breaks, and wore no, or inadequate, protective gear.”

The report is based on interviews with 141 child tobacco workers, ages 7 to 17.

“As the school year ends, children are heading into the tobacco fields, where they can’t avoid being exposed to dangerous nicotine, without smoking a single cigarette,” said Margaret Wurth, children’s rights researcher at HRW and co-author of the report. “It’s no surprise the children exposed to poisons in the tobacco fields are getting sick.”

Children working in tobacco farming faced other serious risks as well, HRW said. “They may use dangerous tools and machinery, lift heavy loads and climb several stories without protection to hang tobacco in barns,” it added. “Children also reported that tractors sprayed pesticides in nearby fields. They said the spray drifted over them, making them vomit, feel dizzy and have difficulty breathing and a burning sensation in their eyes.”

The full report is at

Meanwhile, Philip Morris International welcomed the HRW report and made the point that the abuses uncovered on farms in the U.S. should not occur anywhere.

“This report uncovers serious child labor abuses that should not occur on any farm, anywhere,” said CEO André Calantzopoulos in a note posted on PMI’s website. “Human Rights Watch acknowledges the work PMI has done to address these issues through our Agricultural Labor Practices (ALP) global program to reach nearly half a million smallholder farmers. However, more work remains to be done to eliminate child and other labor abuses in tobacco growing. We are grateful to Human Rights Watch for bringing these issues to light, recognizing the steps we have made to constructively engaging with others to find real and lasting solutions.”

PMI’s response is at

This is not a new story. In November, a report by Gabriel Thompson and Mariya Strauss for The Nation warned that, in the U.S., children as young as 12 were allowed to work on tobacco farms, performing backbreaking labor and putting their health and lives at risk.

And it is by no means confined to the U.S. According to a piece by Jill Stark published in the Sydney Morning Herald in October, Australia’s cigarette trade was “propped up by the exploitation of children.” Stark wrote that “new figures” had revealed that $16 million worth of tobacco was imported annually from countries where “cheap child labor” was used to produce the crop.

E-cigarettes help asthmatic smokers

| May 15, 2014

A new study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health indicates that asthmatic smokers who use e-cigarettes experience an improvement in their asthma symptoms and lung function, even if they remain dual users, according to a leading health expert.

The study (See: Polosa R, et al. “Effect of smoking abstinence and reduction in asthmatic smokers switching to electronic cigarettes: evidence for harm reversal.” International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 2014; doi:10.3390/ijerph110504965.) was the subject of a blog by Dr. Michael Siegel, a professor in the Department of Community Health Sciences, Boston University School of Public Health.

“The study examined 18 smokers with significant asthma who switched to electronic cigarettes,” said Siegel. “Ten of the patients switched completely and eight became dual users (both smoking and using e-cigarettes). Among the dual users, the average cigarette consumption dropped from 22.4 to 3.9 cigarettes per day.

“After one year follow-up, both the ex-smokers and dual users experienced a significant improvement in asthma symptoms and lung function, especially small airways obstruction. Although the improvements in lung function were small, the improvements in asthma symptoms were clinically relevant.”

Siegel said that while the study was preliminary because of the small sample size, it demonstrated that for smokers who were unable to quit smoking using traditional therapies, the use of e-cigarettes might be a viable alternative to help them quit or substantially cut down and might result in improved respiratory health symptoms.

The full blog is at

Altria declares dividend

| May 15, 2014

Following Altria’s annual meeting yesterday, the company’s board of directors declared a regular dividend of $0.48 per common share, payable on July 10 to shareholders of record as of June 16.

The ex-dividend date is June 12.

At the meeting, the company reaffirmed its 2014 full-year guidance for reported and adjusted diluted earnings per share.

Alcohol next in line for plain packaging

| May 14, 2014

Scotch whisky could be dragged into a tit-for-tat trade war because of plans to introduce standardized packaging for cigarettes in Scotland and, possibly, the rest of the U.K., according to a story by David Maddox for The Scotsman, reflecting the fears of some MPs.

The Indonesian government has proposed forcing Australian wine to be sold in standardized packaging in retaliation for Australia introducing standardized packs for tobacco products in December 2012.

Indonesia is expected to impose the same restrictions on New Zealand when that country introduces standardized packs for tobacco products.

And Indonesia has called on other major tobacco-producing countries to follow its lead.

Legislation for standardized cigarette packaging in Scotland is due to be introduced to the Scottish parliament before the end of the current session.

And Prime Minister David Cameron has hinted strongly that a proposal for the introduction of such a measure in England will be included in the Queen’s Speech next month.

These proposals have led to speculation by MPs that whisky could be consigned to standardized packaging in some countries.

Indonesia was identified in 2012 by Paul Walsh, the chief executive of Diageo, among whose brands is Johnnie Walker, as one of the new target growth markets in Asia for Scotch whisky.

Zimbabwe’s leaf prices down 14 percent

| May 14, 2014

Zimbabwe has sold 124 million kg of flue-cured for US$398 million so far during the current sales season, which began in the middle of February, according to a story by Oliver Kazunga for the Chronicle, quoting figures from the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board.

By the same stage of the previous sales season, 98 million kg had been sold for US$370 million.

By day 52 of the current sales, the daily average price stood at $3.20 per kg, down by about 14 percent on that prevailing at the same stage of the previous season, $3.72.

The reduction in prices was put down to the poor quality of the offerings and stiff competition from other producers.

About 88 million kg of the tobacco sold was the subject of contracts, while the remainder had been sold over one of three licensed auction floors.

Major issues to address at nicotine forum

| May 14, 2014

One of the main topics for discussion at the first Global Forum on Nicotine, which will be held in Poland next month, will be the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s deeming regulations for e-cigarettes.

But also high on the list will be the new EU Tobacco Products Directive, the World Health Organization’s position on e-cigarettes, and the upcoming meeting of the parties to the WHO’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (COP6), where proposals are due to be made about including e-cigarettes in the FCTC.

The forum, at the Marriott Hotel, Warsaw, June 27–28, is being organized by KAC, which stages public health and addictions conferences and runs the Nicotine Science and Policy website

The forum’s website is at; registration is available at

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