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Press Room

Tobacco companies rob children of their education and their health

(New York, USA) – In response to The Guardian’s new investigative report on use of child labor across the global tobacco industry, José Luis Castro, CEO and President of the global health organization Vital Strategies, said:

“The Guardian’s new investigative reporting shines a light on the dark underbelly of the tobacco industry. While it claims to be a beneficial economic force – using its links with the International Labor Organization (ILO) to bolster its claims that it supports efforts to help end child labor – this is an industry that continues to profit from the “rampant” use of child labor, pays tobacco farmers as little as possible for their crops, and denies many workers rights like unionization.

“The reports highlight the chasm between the industry’s claim to be a responsible actor and the reality. Across Africa, Asia, and the Americas, an estimated 1.3 million vulnerable children  are subject to working on tobacco farms – compromising their right to education and a healthy life. In Africa, vulnerable families working in tobacco cultivation sometimes can’t even afford to eat. In America, it’s revealed that workers don’t have access to appropriate facilities to help protect their health. We should be outraged that children continue running the risk of harm and sickness for little to no wages, while chief executives of tobacco multinationals enjoy salaries in the tens of millions of dollars.

“In their responses, all the main tobacco companies use the ILO in their defense. This cynical ploy and the Guardian’s reports this week should finally signal the end of the industry’s links with the ILO and big tobacco’s claim to be helping to end child labor. Vital Strategies is asking the ILO – and every other organization with an interest in putting the public’s health before profits – to cut its ties with the tobacco industry.”

Note: Vital Strategies supports The Guardian’s reporting on the tobacco industry but does not have any input into editorial content or decisions, which are entirely independent and conducted under the newspaper’s published editorial guidelines.

About Vital Strategies

Vital Strategies is a global health organization that believes every person should be protected by a strong public health system. Our team combines evidence-based strategies with innovation to help develop and implement sound public health policies, manage programs efficiently, strengthen data systems, conduct research, and design strategic communication campaigns for policy and behavior change. To find out more, please visit or Twitter @VitalStrat.

For further information or to arrange an interview with a Vital Strategies public health and tobacco control expert, please contact