Ban Harmful Child Labor on Tobacco Farms

Target: Representative Terry Kilgore, Chair of the House Commerce and Labor Committee in Virginia

Goal: Bring an end to the underage labor prevalent on Virginian tobacco farms.

Republicans in Virginia’s House of Representatives have once again turned down a bill that would ban children under the age of 18 from working in tobacco fields. Such a bill has been presented before the House of Representatives several times, and every single time, Republicans have sided with the agribusiness industry’s self-serving interests.

Children who work in tobacco fields are more likely to fall ill due to the toxic chemicals the crop emits. These chemicals, which are bad enough to warrant a warning from the surgeon general, cause queasiness, dizziness, and faint spells. Over 140 children working in tobacco fields, many as young as 12, outlined their illnesses to the Human Rights Watch.

However, Republicans argued that protecting children in tobacco fields would be showing them special treatment and special protection. The tobacco industry complained that it should not be singled out among the other industries in the state. Sign the petition to let Republicans in Virginia know that child labor should not be a Democratic or Republican issue. It should be an issue that affects and upsets all decent human beings. The lives of children should not be exploited for political gain.


Dear Rep. Kilgore,

Children in your state, many as young as 12, are being forced to labor for 50 to 60 hours a week in the state’s tobacco fields. The crop’s toxic chemicals, which the surgeon general warns against, cause nausea and faint spells. However, despite the damage this industry is causing  your state’s children, Republicans in the Virginia House of Representatives refuse to ban child labor in the tobacco fields.

Whether or not child labor is “OK” should not be a party issue. It is something that should outrage all Americans. The fact that Republicans sided with the agribusiness industry over the lives of children is alarming. I demand that you and the House of Representatives work together as a bipartisan group to draft and pass a bill that would once and for all ban this harmful child labor.


[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: Taber Andrew Bain

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  1. Brenda Denno says:

    Cannot believe this is happening in America!


  3. Angela Rabon says:

    Republicans again!! That is sorry when you will not defend the children of your state!! It happens in South Carolina, too. In the south, that is why families always had big families so they could work on the farm. Kids were driving tractors years before they got driver’s license. In the fields after chemicals were sprayed and it was so hot in the afternoon, back in the 70’s I used to see young men come out the fields sick, and whatever they sprayed on tobacco back then was not as dangerous as what is used today.

  4. Cynthia Brown says:

    Depends on the time of year- kids may top tobacco after school or weekends & summer. It’s a job, in rural Virginia counties, where manufacturing has mostly shut down and any money that can be earned is needed. You’d do well to do a little research before you launch into tirades about what people do to survive. Not everyone wishes to be on the “dole”…there are a lot of proud Scotch-Irish descendants in these areas, that want to work and instill a work ethic in their children at an early age. I’m from Richmond and I know people who grew up picking tobacco- better that than selling heroin or prostituiting.

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