Our tobacco companies work to better educate and inform growers about Green Tobacco Sickness (GTS).
When working in tobacco fields, it's possible for growers and their workers to come in contact with wet tobacco. If workers are not properly protected, they can become sick if the nicotine in the tobacco plant is absorbed through the skin, a condition known as Green Tobacco Sickness (GTS). Our contracts require growers to follow the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's recommended practices for preventing GTS, including making available recommended personal protective equipment (PPE). We also provide information on how to recognize signs of GTS and require growers and their workers to attend annual GTS training. We monitor compliance against these requirements through our Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) assessments.
We're working with growers on growing and harvesting tobacco safely, in compliance with all laws and regulations. In 2018, we distributed about 75,000 PPE gowns to all of our tobacco growers who use hired labor. The selected garment had full-length sleeves for coverage and water-resistant material.
We've taken additional steps to prevent GTS by:
- distributing training materials to tobacco growers so they can educate their workers on preventing GTS;
- endorsing the U.S. Tobacco GAP Handbook – which is distributed annually to contracted domestic growers – including specific GTS protocols;
- communicating GTS protocols through grower newsletters, GAP and grower meetings;
- requiring through our tobacco companies' contracts that growers implement the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's recommended practices for GTS prevention and provide worker training on how to avoid GTS and heat stress; and
- implementing procedures to assess their adherence to these protocols.
For tobacco produced by growers overseas, we work with tobacco suppliers to promote and maintain Good Agricultural Practices among growers. This includes crop management, environmental management, labor management, and where applicable, GTS protocols.