Thursday, July 15, 2010

Big tobacco is evil

OK, so we all know that Big Tobacco is evil; their long denial that they were effectively selling a slow death by cancer shows that. But they're also responsible for another kind of evil: child slavery:

Tobacco giant Philip Morris has been forced to admit that child workers as young as 10 have been subjected to long hours working on tobacco farms with which it has contracts in the Central Asian state of Kazakhstan.

According to a report by Human Rights Watch, migrant workers at the farms, mostly from neighbouring Kyrgyzstan, were subjected to conditions that often amounted to forced labour, as employers contracted by tobacco farms that sold their produce to Philip Morris International had their passports confiscated and were often made to do additional work for no pay. The company, which sources tobacco from Kazakhstan for cigarette brands sold in Russia and other former Soviet states, said it was taking "immediate action" to stop the abuses.

In many cases families were expected to pay back unrealistic debts to intermediaries who had arranged for their journeys to Kazakhstan, in schemes that bear all the hallmarks of people trafficking. The report also documented 72 cases of children working on the farms.

Child slavery, debt slavery, forced labour. Light up, breathe deep - you're getting slavery in every cigarette.

The full report from Human Rights Watch is here.