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McCrory cartoonGov. Pat McCrory took a rather startling and troubling position the other day when he spoke at the behest of a tobacco lobbyist against efforts in France and Ireland to further restrict cigarette packaging to promote public health.

Apparently, kowtowing to the hometown industry is more important than protecting the lives and well-being of a bunch of anonymous furreners.

Having established the precedent, however, maybe the Guv could follow up by doing the industry’s bidding on another matter impacting the health and well-being of kids he’ll never meet — farmworker children.

As it turns out, the tobacco industry has — at least publicly — endorsed a policy change that would, once and for all, end the scandal of child labor in American tobacco fields. As Associated Press reported today:

Two years after the Obama administration backed off a rule that would have banned children from dangerous agriculture jobs, public health advocates and lawmakers are trying anew to get kids off tobacco farms.

The new efforts were jumpstarted by a Human Rights Watch report in May that said nearly three-quarters of the children interviewed by the group reported vomiting, nausea and headaches while working on tobacco farms. Those symptoms are consistent with nicotine poisoning, often called Green Tobacco Sickness, which occurs when workers absorb nicotine through their skin while handling tobacco plants.

The article goes on to say that:
Philip Morris International, which limits the type of work children can do on tobacco farms, says it would like to see stronger U.S. regulations in this area.
Whatta’ ya’ say Guv? As long as you’re gonna’ be in the pocket of big tobacco, how about staying there when it would actually support a good cause?
Commentary

As has been reported on this site on multiple occasions (and as amazing and discouraging as the truth is), the scandal of child labor in one of the country’s most dangerous professions remains a reality in modern America. Children as young as seven are still trooping into America’s (and North Carolina’s) tobacco fields to harvest the poisonous crop on a regular basis.

Today, Baldemar Velazquez, the President of the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC) will offer a solution to this absurd situation in a presentation outside of the Global Tobacco Networking Forum — an industry confab at the swanky Greenbrier resort in West Virginia. Click here to read his statement. This is from the announcement from FLOC:

FLOC PRESIDENT VELASQUEZ TRIES TO OFFER PLAN FOR ELIMINATING CHILD LABOR IN US TOBACCO FIELDS AT WEST VIRGINIA MEETING OF TOBACCO EXECUTIVES

FLOC President Baldemar Velasquez brought his plan to eliminate child labor in US tobacco fields to the Global Tobacco Networking Forum at The Greenbrier, in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia.

FLOC represents and advocates for tobacco farm workers in North Carolina and the South, and has a collective agreement with the North Carolina Growers Association which covers the H2A workers who come from Mexico to the work in the tobacco fields.

The Global Tobacco Networking Forum describes itself as the “Davos” of the tobacco industry, met in Cape Town, South Africa in 2013, and is organized by industry publication, Tobacco Reporter.
Over 200 tobacco company executives from around the world have come to The Greenbrier to discuss and network about the issues that challenge the tobacco industry, and one of these issues is the elimination of child labor in the tobacco fields globally.

A recent Human Rights Watch Report showed the prevalence of child labor in the tobacco fields of North Carolina.

President Velasquez had hoped to present his plan to eliminate child labor in the US tobacco fields to the GTNF session on Child Labor but could not obtain entrance to the session. So instead, President Velasquez will hold a separate briefing at the Greenbrier on How to Eliminate Child Labor in US Tobacco Fields, Friday, October 3 at 6:10pm in the Filmore Room. President Velasquez has invited GTNF participants to attend and hear FLOC’s plan.
FLOC ended child labor in the tomato and cucumber fields of Ohio, and President Velasquez said: “if we could do it in Ohio, than we can do it in North Carolina and anywhere else in the US where tobacco is grown.” Read More

Uncategorized

A final vote is expected in the House Wednesday on a package of tax changes that would among other things place a new tax on e-cigarettes.

Bill backers say the levy  – 5 cents per milliliter of liquid – has the support of the tobacco industry. But Mecklenburg County Democrat Rep. Becky Carney urged her colleagues to pull the e-cigarette portion out of the omnibus tax bill and allow for further debate.

Carney argued that the nickel tax was well-below the 45-cent-per-pack tax on traditional cigarettes.

“If we’re going to tax something, are we doing it to our greatest advantage? Yeah, a nickel is great for the industry, of course,  that’s low. But what about those revenues in North Carolina that we potentially will lose and that we could bring in?” said Rep. Carney.

“I think we’ve kicked the tobacco industry around enough, maybe we owe them a little deference,” countered Cabarrus County Republican Rep. Larry Pittman.

Orange County Rep. Verla Insko also argued that the level of this new tax and the impact on teenage smokers warranted further discussion.

Carney’s amendment ultimately failed Tuesday, keeping the e-cigarette measure as part of the broader tax bill.

One more vote and the bill heads to the Senate. To hear a portion of Tuesday’s debate on House Bill 1050, click below. To learn more about the FDA’s take on e-cigarettes, click here.

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Uncategorized

Tobacco fieldInstead of thinking up new and creative ways to downsize and privatize government, shred the social safety net and just generally make life harder for the 99%, here’s the kind of issue that North Carolina lawmakers ought to be addressing forcefully during the 2014 legislative session:

A new report is out that once again highlights the dangerous working conditions for children in the North Carolina tobacco industry.

As WRAL reports here, the good people at Human Rights Watch released a report today documenting the hazards. The authors of “Tobacco’s Hidden Children: Hazardous Child Labor in United States Tobacco Farming” interviewed child tobacco workers in North Carolina Read More

Lunch Links

For your Wednesday lunch today-

Science:

  • Bill Nye, my childhood science mentor via PBS, debated Ken Ham last night on the science of evolution vs. creationism. Ham is the president of the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky, where the debate took place and was livestreamed. Um, yeah. Mashable has a recap here.
  • You can also watch the debate on youtube, embeded below.

  • We have our own share of science-deniers here in the Tar Heel state… The N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences denied to show a documentary Shored Up, about the impacts of climate change on places like our lovely Outer Banks, also one of my personal favorite places in the world… But hey, you can still catch it tonight at NCSU or tomorrow at Full Frame Theatre in Durham. More here from WRAL.
  • Trailer below.

Health and Technology:

  • Rumor has it Apple hired an expert on sleep research, Dr. Roy J.E.M. Raymann, onto its team developing the ‘iWatch’ project. So I guess you better watch out cause soon Santa will not be the only one who sees you when you’re sleeping. More here from The Telegraph.
  • Read More