Politicians (and Lobbyists) Allowing Children to Work in America's Tobacco Fields
Well, it's finally happened. A situation is starting to bubble into the public consciousness that has brought me to the very limits of my ability to absorb one more jaw-dropping example of how government has truly abandoned any pretense of protecting or nurturing our children.
The New York Times, in a Sunday editorial, has, in its own venerable way, decried the practice of using kids as young as age seven to work the tobacco fields in Virginia, North Carolina, Kentucky and Tennessee. If someone had told me this was a story in The Onion, I wouldn't have been surprised. Really, too absurdly off the wall to have been true. Sadly, this was the Times -- and the editorial writers were deadly serious.
Much of this horror story -- including reports of nicotine poisoning and pesticide exposure among these child tobacco workers -- has been brought to light in a report from Human Rights Watch.
At this point, other news outlets, including most of the broadcast networks and NPR, have also covered the story. According to an ABC story, Philip Morris International, Inc. CEO, André Calantzopoulos, did express concern recommending, apparently, that "More work needs to be done to eliminate child and other labor abuses in tobacco growing." Yeah, good point.
But not all agreed with André. In fact, spokesman for Altria Group -- owner of Philip Morris USA -- Jeff Caldwell, is reported to have said, in effect, that preventing young kids from working tobacco fields "is really contrary to a lot of the current practices that are in place in the U.S. and is at odds in these communities where family farming is really a way of life."