Philip Morris International Inc., the world’s second-largest buyer of tobacco, says It will no longer buy from anyone employing children less than 18 years old.
It’s not clear what that could mean for Ontario’s tobacco-farming families whose teenagers and their friends often work in the fields.
The company says it will, in some circumstances, continue to buy from those who employ teens to work at drying kilns and with seedlings.
In May, a Human Rights Watch report raised concerns about children working on U.S. tobacco farms.
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 report by the international rights group prompted efforts from public health advocates and lawmakers to get children off tobacco farms.
Two years ago, the Obama administration backed off a rule that would have banned children from dangerous agriculture jobs.
Phlip Morris also announced Wednesday that it is partnering with two U.S. tobacco leaf suppliers to buy its tobacco rather than working directly with farmers.
It has made agreements with Virginia-based Universal Corp. and North Carolina-based Alliance One International Inc. to help the company "achieve important supply chain efficiencies while remaining a major purchaser of U.S.-grown tobacco."
About 35 Richmond-based employees will be impacted by the change which takes effect in April.
Philip Morris International, based in New York and Switzerland, already works with Universal and Alliance One to purchase tobacco all over the world.
According to its website, more than 70 per cent of Philip Morris International's tobacco comes from Brazil, Turkey, the U.S., Malawi, Indonesia, China, Argentina, Philippines, Mozambique and Tanzania.
Philip Morris International is second only to China National Tobacco Corp. as a tobacco buyer.
Richmond-based Altria Group Inc., the owner of Philip Morris USA, spun off Philip Morris International as a separate company in 2008. Altria is the largest U.S. cigarette seller.