I was probably 10 or 11 when I first started working on my grandfather's tobacco farm.
We didn't just harvest. We planted in the spring, riding on a setter behind a tractor. In the summer, we harvested. Adults cut and staked, and everyone came later and hauled the stakes onto wagons. We children weren't allowed to stake, or touch the machetes or razor-sharp spikes. Many of us cut firewood at home; the machetes weren't nearly so dangerous as the spikes, which would go through your palm like butter. Yeah, kids couldn't touch those.
I have no idea what that is. Must be a different method.
We then hung it in barn rafters 4-5 stories high, handing it up from the wagons. I loved that part; I've always loved heights. No more dangerous than climbing trees at home.
Finally, in the winter, we pulled it down and stripped the dried leaves, and put them in a baling compactor.
Was it dangerous? No more than playing in our backyard at home.
Never happened to me, nor anyone, adult or child, I knew. I suspect this is grossly exaggerated. If you're working in the sun for days at a time, at some point you're going to get a headache or feel nauseous.
Only if you're a nitwit and don't wash your hands first. Water is always available, you can't work in the heat without it. Tobacco gum is sticky, but it comes right off with a modest amount of scrubbing. We usually wore gloves anyway.
What I earned, and every kid I knew, got to keep. We earned $100-300 a week back when the minimum wage was $5.15. As a kid, it seemed perfectly reasonable to me, and in retrospect taught a valuable lesson of the correlation of hard work and money.
I don't know any kids who worked in tobacco who didn't do it for a relative, and as far as I know kept the pay.
Yeah, in the trees behind the field. That was neither unusual nor unhealthy. Anyone who grew up with land probably did that on a weekly basis voluntarily anyway.
Are there kids forced to work for no pay, 12 hours a day, and made or allowed to use dangerous implements like spikes? I'm sure there are. And I wholeheartedly agree their parents should be investigated for abuse. On an individual basis. But I never met one.
As someone who grew up doing this, I think the article is way overblown, and the data overly anecdotal, cherry-picked, and manipulated to support preconceived notions.