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June 12th, 2016:

The Shocking Truth about Child Labor in the Tobacco Industry

Dear Friend,

Every day, hundreds of thousands of children go to work on tobacco farms around the world.

Working in hazardous conditions and for long hours, many miss out on their childhood and education. Many work unpaid, have no rights, and are unaware of the health risks they face.

They become exposed to toxic chemicals through direct contact with crops. In the USA, children as young as twelve are still legally permitted to work up to 50-60 hours per week in tobacco farming. Nearly three in four children who work on tobacco farms in the United States experience green tobacco sickness – acute nicotine poisoning that occurs when workers absorb nicotine through their skin.


In India, children as young as four work in the Beedi industry, trapped in slavery and forced to make hundreds of hand-rolled cigarettes each day.

Today, World Day Against Child Labor, we are helping Human Rights Watch highlight the shocking truth of how children are exploited and harmed by the global tobacco industry.

This short film tells the story of children who work on tobacco farms in Indonesia.

ITIC: A Foundation Directly Sponsored by Transnational Tobacco Companies

The International Tax and Investment Center (ITIC) is a U.S.-based non-profit research and education organization headquartered in Washington, D.C. ITIC describes itself as an independent clearinghouse for best practices in taxation and investment policy that provides “its sponsors a seat at the policymaking table.”

ITIC’s main sponsors are large multinational corporations from the oil, alcohol and tobacco industries. ITIC’s sponsors include all of the leading transnational tobacco companies, and its Board of Directors includes representatives from BAT, PMI, JTI and Imperial Tobacco.

Internal tobacco industry documents made public through U.S.-based litigation settlements in 1998 disclose that ITIC has long played a role in facilitating the tobacco industry’s access to government officials. For example, a 1997 internal R.J. Reynolds memo describes ITIC’s role in assisting RJR and PMI in favourable tax reform in Russia.

ITIC provides advice to governments on tobacco tax issues. They hold workshops and meetings and provide technical advice through paid experts. They sponsor reports on illicit trade, producing illicit trade estimates with poorly defined methodology and often exaggerated rates of illicit trade. ITIC uses their workshops, contacts and research to push for tax systems and rates that benefit the industry over public health.

Claim about no-smoking areas is absurd

I take exception to the ¬comment by public health ¬professor Lam Tai-hing, of the University of Hong Kong, that “Hong Kong is one of the leading places in the world in the anti-smoking area” (“Doctors want ban on sale of alcohol to under-18s”, June 4)

Surely he is joking? Walking around Lan Kwai Fong, Wyndham Street and Soho on a recent weekend, I failed to see a single “No Smoking” sign ¬posted anywhere, outside or ¬inside any restaurant or bar.

Smokers puffed away on the pavement under awnings less than a metre from where people were eating.

Smoke was being blown in over people’s food, ¬including that of young children, who were forced to ¬inhale poisonous secondary smoke.

Worse, I counted roughly 30 people that evening breaking the smoking laws. Perhaps this was done unwittingly, as no signs could be seen and ashtrays were placed for their convenience in illegal places.

Leading the world in anti-smoking rules? I think not. Perhaps leading the world in allowing smoking in public places would be more accurate.

And alcohol? David Yau Chak-wong, of the Hong Kong General Chamber of Wine and Spirits, said the age limit for the sale of alcohol should be set at 16, rather than 18.

According to Katherine Brown, policy director at the ¬Institute for Alcohol Studies, there is simply no evidence that ¬allowing teens to drink will help develop a sensible attitude to drinking.

In fact, studies show the complete opposite: the earlier children are introduced to alcohol, the more they will drink as adults. But I guess if you are in the business of selling alcohol, this would be exactly what you want.

You’ve got to “love” Hong Kong – profits first even ahead of health.

M. Bentley, Central
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