Child labour used in Indonesian tobacco production, says NGO

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Jakarta, May 25 (IANS) International non-governmental organisation Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Wednesday that child labour is used in tobacco plantations in Indonesia, whose harvest supplies local and foreign tobacco companies.

Children, some of whom are just eight years old, are exposed to nicotine, handle toxic chemicals or use dangerous tools in extreme heat, HRW said in a report titled ‘The Harvest is in My Blood: Hazardous Child Labour in Tobacco Farming in Indonesia’, EFE news reported.

“Tobacco companies are making money off the backs and the health of Indonesian child workers,” HRW researcher and report co-author Margaret Wurth said in a statement.

Wurth and her team interviewed 132 children working in plantations in four Indonesian provinces, half of whom reported symptoms of acute nicotine poisoning from absorbing nicotine through their skin.

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The children are also exposed to pesticides and other chemicals which are linked to respiratory problems, cancer and depression.

HRW urged companies to ban suppliers from employing children and called on the Indonesian government to regulate the tobacco industry and launch an education campaign to spread awareness about the health risks faced by children.

Indonesia is the world’s fifth largest producer of tobacco, with over 500,000 plantations which employ more than 1.5 million children aged between 10 to 17 years, according to International Labour Organization data.

Although Indonesia’s laws stipulate the minimum age for work at 15 and forbids those under the age of 18 from carrying out hazardous work, the tobacco industry still flouts these rules, according to HRW.

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