Large Tobacco Company to Stop Hiring Children Younger than 16

Sunday, December 14, 2014
15-year-old girl picking tobacco in North Carolina (photo: Human Rights Watch)

Give Altria, makers of Marlboro cigarettes and other tobacco products, credit for one thing: the company will prohibit its U.S. tobacco growers from hiring children under the age of 16.


U.S. labor law is strangely lax on the subject of children working on farms. Those as young as 12 can work on any farm and there’s no minimum age limit to who may work on a family farm. Efforts to change those rules have been stymied by the agricultural industry with help from federal legislators from both sides of the aisle.


Human Rights Watch found that tobacco farming exposed children and others working in the fields to nicotine, toxic pesticides and extreme heat. The group said most children interviewed reported nausea, vomiting, headaches, and dizziness, which are signs of acute nicotine poisoning.


“Altria Group has taken an important step toward protecting younger children from the dangers of tobacco farming,” Margaret Wurth, children’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch, said.

Altria will even require parental permission for those under 18 to work on farms in its supply chain.


Reynolds American, owner of R.J. Reynolds, Altria’s biggest competitor, has no anti-child labor policy.

-Steve Straehley


To Learn More:

Tobacco Company Bans Hiring Children Under 16 (Human Rights Watch)

Obama Gives Up Fight to Restrict Child Labor on Non-Family Farms (by Matt Bewig, AllGov)



Leave a comment