Each year, when school lets out for the summer, children as young as 12 — and sometimes younger — start working long hours tending tobacco in Virginia and other big tobacco states. They absorb nicotine through their skin, get sprayed with pesticides and use sharp axes to hack down rows of tobacco taller than they are — all in the extreme heat and humidity common during the summer months in the South. The work makes many of them sick.
More children work in agriculture than in any other industry in the world. But the scale and complexity of the problem is no excuse for tolerating a practice that traps children in multi-generational cycles of poverty, or, worse, leaves them injured, maimed, or dead.