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OSLO - J.L. Tiedemanns Tobaksfabrik (Tiede-manns), the Oslo-based tobacco group, is facing a consumer backlash following a report carried by state broadcaster NRK claiming that children younger than 10 are being used to harvest tobac-co on plantations in Africa that supply the com-pany.

Following the broadcast, Norway's leading anti-tobacco organization, NAT, called for a consumer boycott of Tiedemanns products. The issue has also been raised in the Storting (parliament), with the Christian Democrats calling for the in-troduction of a new code of ethics that would prohibit Norwegian-based companies from either employing children or purchasing materials pro-duced using child labor.

Tiedemanns concedes that it was "aware that children worked on these plantations" but added there was "little it could do to stamp out child labor."

According to a United Nations report published in January, child labor is widespread on tobacco plantations in Malawi and Zimbabwe. Tiedemanns purchases 20% to 30% of its raw material from these two countries.

"Let's get this straight - in principle we op-pose child labor. But what can we do?" says Tiedemanns spokesman Jan Robert Kvam. "Yes, we know children work on tobacco farms. We distance ourselves from child labor and try to operate a form of quality control with our suppliers. We are aware the problem exists in some markets."

Copyright March 2001, Crain Communications Inc.

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