Ever wondered how cigarettes are made? What happens with the tobacco plant before it ends up in the pretty colored pack? A team of child rights activists went to Indonesia to see what happens behind the scene and analyze the hands that manually roll the leaves that are cut x times in order to offer you the smoothest smoking experience. Their discovery? It seems that child labor is their secret ingredient.
The Average Worker Should Be in School
After visiting several farms and interviewing plenty of minor workers, the team discovered that most of the individuals that handle the tobacco plants are of primary school age. However, instead of building paper mache volcanoes, they were busy removing weeds from the roots of the precious tobacco plants.
The Work Is Divided According to Strength and Endurance
Smaller workers, like those who were only eight years old, were used for small tasks like plucking weeds, or scattering fertilizers on each plant. Others that had more strength were forced to wake up at 6 AM and manually water all of the plants. That translates into thousands of buckets of water carried by a ten years old under scorching heat each day.
The adolescents were given more meaningful tasks, like handling the insecticide sprayer which is a heavy tube filled with toxic substances that they strap on their back and carry around the farm for hours on end.
The Children Are Exposed to Toxic Substances
The aforementioned insecticide is prepared by other workers, the smaller ones who are not yet ready to go into the field. According to the testimony of one of the girls, sometimes they take the concentrated solution, pour it into a bucket of water and mix it with their bare hands.
However, that is just one of the major health risk that the children are being exposed to each day. Apart from keeping the precious plant safe from natural predators, the workers must make sure that it grows tall and fast. This means that they regularly scatter chemical fertilizer on each plant. This task is also performed with bare hands.
The tobacco plant itself is a health hazard for children, pushing nicotine into their systems every time they pick the leaves and gently press and roll them.
The young aged workers face exhaustion, nicotine intoxication, long-term brain damage, and other serious health threats each day. Yet, the tobacco industry is not interested that they are selling a product which is the direct result of child labor.
According to the team that filmed the documentary, big companies who are known to buy their raw product from Indonesian traders refused to comment on the matter.
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