Young people on tobacco farms
Thank you for beginning this debate.
First of all, I would have to disagree with the comment in your first point. "The idea that by making child labor on tobacco farms illegal we"ll be saving lives is absurd, as without the money provided by working on the farm, those children would likely have no other alternative." I strongly disagree with this point in the fact that it is morally wrong that because a pay check is more important than health. Families receive benefits and food stamps given by the government. Your point of morals does not justify the low hourly wages, of $4.25, that children are receiving. Writing in the current American Journal of Industrial Medicine, Sara A. Quandt, PhD., said that 41 percent of tobacco farm workers reported having green tobacco sickness at least once during the summer. According to newswise.com, 6% ever received medical help. This sickness ordinarily include nausea, vomiting, and dizziness. Other frequently encountered symptoms include abdominal cramps, headache, breathing difficulty, pallor, increased sweating and salivation, chills and fluctuations in blood pressure or heart rate. Most workers attempt to treat themselves. "Only 9 percent sought medical treatment," she said, "and 7 percent lost work time." Many farm workers believe they will be fired and lose their income if they get sick or work too slowly. Green tobacco sickness is an environmental justice issue, part of the growing concern that poor, minority and medically under served populations bear a disproportionate share of environmental and occupational health risks. On humid days the average field worker may be exposed to and absorb as much as 54 mg of dissolved nicotine " the equivalent to more than 32 average cigarettes. How can we make cigarettes illegal and illegal to smoke in public, but allow children to work on tobacco farms who are getting the same consequences as if they are being exposed and smoking nicotine? The answer is we cannot. It is morally wrong that as keeping it legal, we are encouraging low wages and health risks. You need to question the morality of hard work, long hours, and little pay, in addition with the terrible conditions working on a tobacco farm.
In addition, you also stated that the children have no alternative if it is what they need to do to survive. However, the range of working time is only 8-10 weeks. The agricultural hazardous occupations orders under the Fair Labor Standards Act that bar young workers from certain tasks have not been updated since they were promulgated in 1970. Times have changed and ways people can earn money has changed. Going back to your survival point, it is important to make notice that other dangerous jobs child labor could help would also make money. Every job available could make money. Prostitution, for example, could make money. Although it is not correlated with this topic of argumentation, the fact is making any type of job illegal would prevent families from receiving money. However, you are assuming that there are no other jobs available for children in order to survive. That is simply untrue, as tobacco being the only way to make money to survive, as it is a generalized statement of your opinion that there are not any other jobs children could perform in order to help out with the family than the tobacco farming. As I stated above, child labor on tobacco farms is immoral, and its disadvantages clearly out weigh the advantages.
Lastly, communities and countries experiencing poverty, high unemployment, and economic reliance on tobacco growing are vulnerable to predatory tobacco industry behavior. The health risks of tobacco farming are beyond the scope of any
study. Data on social disruption in tobacco farming have been obtained through newspaper stories, published and unpublished reports, scholarly literature, documentary films, and tobacco industry publications such as annual reports and websites. In all World Health Organization regions (Eastern Mediterranean, Africa, Europe, the Americas, South East Asia and Western Pacific) tobacco farming involves child labor and deforestation as well as tobacco industry behavior promoting disruption in social and environmental life in tobacco farming communities. Keeping child labor on tobacco farms would, thus, cause the opposite of which you stated. You said that it would not save lives and in a nut shell, would actually do worse to the child who is working to survive. However, as stated above, actually having child labor does not benefit the people, nor the environment. Its disadvantages are outweighed more than the advantages of child labor on tobacco farms.
Thank you for your rebuttal comments.
In the first part of your argument, you ask how we can make cigarettes and smoking in public illegal, but allow children to work on tobacco farms receiving the same amount of harm. From the perspective of the United States, it’s not the public’s decision to make. We have to question the assumption that we should make something illegal because the pay is low and the working conditions are poor. Those two factors describe a large range of jobs, from coal mining to paint manufacturing and so on. The idea that we can justify making those kinds of jobs illegal on the basis of low pay and poor working conditions is absurd if we try to apply that to any kind of production work. Workers on these farms should understand the risks and consent to these risks before beginning employment; any employer who does not adequately explain the risks is doing some illegal from a case law perspective.
Having to make this farm work illegal from a legislative standpoint is at best redundant and at worst highly restrictive of the public’s interest, if the public is interested in consuming the products produced in working conditions that are poor and by workers who are paid low wages. I agree that tobacco sickness is a significant, moral issue – but, again, think critically about whether we want to set a precedent in the United States that we are going to prohibit activities or business practices because they are immoral, especially when there are significant disagreements about what is moral and what is not. Is it, in fact, even more immoral to tell these farm owners that they will no longer have the staff they need to adequate produce and sell products in the market and therefore they will no longer be able to operate. I stand by my point regarding children who work these farms because they have to, and how will they be impacted by this move to make their labor illegal. I acknowledge that families receive benefits and food stamps, but why would children be working on tobacco farms if they were receiving benefits and food stamps that met all of their needs? The answer is that government support is not enough in all cases; in some cases, children must actually work to support themselves and those who actually depend on them. While Pro’s argument seems to assume that children belong to families receiving government assistance, often the child is an orphan and has no family. In that case, the government provides very little support in terms of monetary help.
I grant you that there are other ways that children could make money. They could move into prostitution, they could steal, they could do other illegal things. The important point is, though, that there are few other legally sanctioned ways that children can realistically make money. Stealing, prostitution, and bad deeds are not more moral than tobacco farming because they have less of a health impact. In fact, they are less moral because they impact society broadly. Tobacco farming adds to the economy and adds to the welfare of society, much more so than other behaviors that are exploitative (such as prostitution) or outright harmful (stealing).
As a last point, keep in mind that I have restricted the argument to refer only to the United States. Data on social disruption from the World Health Organization (especially with regard to human rights abuses and deforestation) does not necessarily apply to US tobacco companies, which must conform to US case and statutory law with respect to labor and the environment.
To conclude, I have not found Pro’s argument that the disadvantages of child labor on tobacco farms outweigh the advantages. I think, before making that statement, you should ask a child who would have no other legitimate way of finding money to support himself or herself. You might ask tobacco farmers who depend on labor to support their communities. You might ask business owners generally whether the government should be involved in restricting the kind of work that people can do, which might have deep and unintended negative consequences, especially when legitimate tobacco farms already try to control the risks to their employees as a matter of legal necessity. Vote Con.