Bill would halt child labor on tobacco farms

Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) has introduced legislation to prohibit children from working on tobacco farms.

Cicilline said he was inspired to address the issue after a Human Rights Watch report earlier this year documented how children working in tobacco fields were exposed to health risks, such as tobacco poisoning.

The report found that the children often work long hours in tobacco fields without appropriate protective gear. Consequently, many of the children exhibited symptoms of nicotine poisoning, including nausea, vomiting, dizziness and headaches.

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"It seems to me that exposing young people to those kinds of dangers is something we should prevent," Cicilline said in an interview.

"The Daily Show" recently documented the issue, with correspondent Samantha Bee interviewing a Kentucky tobacco farmer and children who worked on a tobacco farm. The farmer seemed to think children were lucky to gain the work experience.

Cicilline, however, said his bill was already in the works by the time he saw the June "Daily Show" segment.

"I generally watch it, but I did not see that particular show" until after his staff showed him the clip, he said.

Cicilline said he plans to discuss his bill with leadership to try to move it forward after Congress returns from its August recess. 

He conceded that tobacco farmers, who are primarily based in Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee and Kentucky, will likely not support the measure.

"There may be some opposition from people who currently employ young people to work on tobacco farms," Cicilline said.

But The Rhode Island Democrat said he hopes the bill will gain bipartisan support quickly. 

"I think most people who learn about this recognize there's a serious issue," Cicilline said.