(The New York Times) Human Rights Watch, a nonprofit devoted to exposing and preventing war crimes and government misconduct, has recently reported forced labor on farms that provide a Philip Morris International cigarette factory in Kazakhstan, Central Asia. The farm in question has employed children, which is especially dangerous given the tobacco context. Because nicotine is absorbed through the skin, heavily handled tobacco leaves can cause dizziness, nausea, vomiting, and rashes; farm workers working all day in tobacco fields can take in the nicotine equivalent to 36 cigarettes in one day, simply from contact with the leaves. As expected, children are especially of concern because they are smaller.
What is worse, farmers in the area are denied adequate hydration, so they drink water from nearby irrigation systems saturated in harmful chemicals. Researchers from Human Rights Watch found that Kazach tobacco fields employ thousands of migrants, 72 of which have been children.
When the Philip Morris International company read the report submitted by Human Rights Watch, it declared that it was opposed to child labor and that it would re-evaluate trade with Kazakhstan.