People on TikTok Are Quitting Vaping to Protest Child Labor in Congo - DMT NEWS

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People on TikTok Are Quitting Vaping to Protest Child Labor in Congo

Dozens of people have been convinced to quit vaping. Not because of the health concerns or the cost, but in solidarity with the people of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

“I know these are the last words you thought you’d ever hear me say in my f––ing life, but I’m quitting vaping,” creator Kristina (@itskristinamf) said in a TikTok that reached 1.5 million views. “I’m officially f––ing done.”

Dozens of users are commenting on this video and others like it, pledging that they too have bought their last disposable vape. 

The DRC currently faces “one of the most complex humanitarian crises in the world,” the UN Refugee Agency said. Decades of instability and violence have escalated in recent months as roughly 120 armed groups fight for control over resources and land. According to the UN, roughly six million people have been displaced by the conflict and face hunger and gender-based violence.

The conflict in the DRC is concentrated in the eastern provinces, which are rich in minerals like cobalt, which plays an essential role in the creation of lithium-ion batteries for electronics like phones, electric vehicles and yes, vapes. Roughly 74% of the world’s cobalt is mined in the DRC as of 2021, according to the Cobalt Institute.

According to the Center for Preventive Action’s Global Conflict Tracker, as demand grows for cobalt and other minerals used to create advanced electronics, the mining industry has taken over swaths of the DRC, leading to even more displacement and conflict. 

“I’ve been learning what’s going in Congo and the conditions over there because of f—cking cobalt, because we need these for electronics,” Kristina said in the video. “And I’ve been looking up like, how can I help what’s going on in Congo?”

People throw away an estimated 150 million vapes every year, tossing billions of dollars worth of materials like iron, copper, and cobalt into landfills. As many in the Western world look for ways to help Congolese people from afar, calls to limit electronic waste have gone viral on TikTok.

“Quitting vaping in solidarity with Congo, children across the globe and the Earth itself is actually a phenomenal practice,” another creator @queeratine said in a video that received a million views.

Cobalt mining is not only feeding the conflict, it’s also dangerous in practice and has been called modern-day slavery by Siddharth Kara, an expert on cobalt mining in the DRC. 

Kara told NPR that "cobalt is toxic to touch and breathe—and there are hundreds of thousands of poor Congolese people touching and breathing it day in and day out. Young mothers with babies strapped to their backs, all breathing in this toxic cobalt dust.” 

The U.S. Department of Labor added lithium-ion batteries to a list of products created by child labor in 2022, specifically because of how routinely children are forced into mining cobalt in the DRC.

Kara told NPR that miners are often given no personal protective equipment and work in hazardous conditions for the equivalent of just one or two dollars a day. Mine collapses have caused hundreds of deaths and injuries. 

On one video, a user commented, “it’s funny, I won’t quit for my health, but I will quit in solidarity for the Congo.”

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via https://www.DMT.NEWS

Anna Ta, Khareem Sudlow