The World Health Organization announced their 2012 conference theme as "tobacco comapany interference," which will include discussions of how tobacco companies pollute their supply chains with forced labor and slavery.
While this isn't the full focus on forced labor we were asking for, it is a real victory in that tobacco control advocates and policymakers are 1.) expressing interest in ending the imbalance where public health over-emphasizes tobacco-related consumption/demand issues at the expense of production/supply issues (e.g. child labor, deforestation and green tobacco sickness), and 2) increasing scrutiny on practices of tobacco companies who profit from human rights abuses in tobacco growing developing countries.
While they produce the key ingredient for one of the most profitable industries in the world, tobacco farmers are often trapped in poverty where they experience many forms of exploitation due to the practices of Philip Morris, British American Tobacco and other cigarette manufacturers, and Universal Corporation, Alliance One International, and other leaf buying companies. Child labor, forced labor, bonded labor, debt servitude, poverty wages and other labor violations characterize the conditions for many workers. The US Department of Labor has identified at least fifteen countries whose tobacco is produced by forced and/or child labor. Individuals working in tobacco fields are the most affected by pesticide poisoning and Green Tobacco Sickness (nicotine poisoning through skin absorption). Tobacco growing communities are also impacted by soil depletion, water pollution, deforestation and food insecurity. Focusing this important day on the labor rights, human rights and environmental issues in tobacco farming will play a critical role in calling attention to the practices of cigarette manufacturers and leaf buying companies that contribute to these problems and inspire new initiatives to end these abuses.