Child labour: the tobacco industry's smoking gun
At the height of the tobacco harvest season, Malawi's lush, flowing fields are filled with young children picking the big green-yellow leaves. Some can count their age on one hand. One of them is five-year-old Olofala, who works every day with his parents in rural Kasungu, one of Malawi's key tobacco growing districts. When asked if he will go to school next year, he shrugs his shoulders. One thing is clear to Olofala already: work comes first, education second. His sister, Ethel, 12, is only in year three. Such complaints are not uncommon. Since the handling of the leaves is done largely without protective clothing, workers absorb up to 54 milligrams of dissolved nicotine daily through their skin, equal to the amount of 50 cigarettes, according to 2005 research by Prof Robert McKnight, of the College of Public Health at the University of Kentucky, Lexington. At the consumer end of the chain, smokers are constantly reminded of the associated health risks. The tobacco giants disagree.
Related: Child Labor