Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Smoking Bidis is Safe for you Health! NOT!

What these bidis (beedis) are?

Bidis are filterless cigarettes imported from India. They are 7-8 times more common in India than conventional cigarettes. These cigarettes are also called “beeris” in countries such as Bangladesh. A bidi consists of about 0.2 gram of sun-dried and processed tobacco flakes, rolled in a tendu leaf (Diospyros  elanoxylon) or temburni  leaf and held together by a cotton thread. The tobacco rolled in bidis is different from that used in cigarettes and is referred to as bidi tobacco. Dark and sun-dried tobacco varieties are used in bidi production.

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The tendu leaf constitutes 60% of the weight of the bidi. The bidi is four to eight cm in length. The diameter at the closed end is 0.6 - 0.8 cm and the width at the smoking end is 0.7-0.9 cm. The relatively low combustibility and non-porous nature of the tendu leaves requires more frequent and deeper puffs by the smoker to keep bidis lit, and is therefore harder on the smoker’s lungs than cigarettes rolled in paper. Tar levels delivered by bidis are high, at 45-50 mg/bidi. In India, bidis are known as the “poor man’s cigarettes”, as they are smaller and cheaper than cigarettes.

Bidis are produced in a wide variety of flavors, including chocolate, mango, vanilla, lemon-lime, mint, pineapple and cherry. Referred to as cigarettes with training wheels by health authorities, the overall appearance and taste of this product is especially appealing to young smokers.

Bidi cigarettes gained popularity in the United States in the mid-1990s, and by 1999, there was a call to action against bidis by the State Attorneys General urging Congress and federal officials to stop the import of this toxic product geared specifically toward children.

Many people believe that smoking bidis is a better alternative to cigarette and other forms of smoking, because unlike cigarettes and chewing tobacco, bidis frequently lack the required health warnings. But, unfortunately it’s a great misconception. Smoking bidis is just as dangerous as smoking cigarettes, and maybe even more.

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Why bidi smoking is dangerous?

In bidis chemicals are not added to aid combustion, this is the reason why a smoker takes puffs with more force in order to keep it from going out as well as a smoker uses more bidis in compare to cigarettes to get the same amount of nicotine with which he is habituated early. In this way a bidi smoker takes higher concentrations of toxins to his lungs than cigarettes. Smokers puff on a bidi cigarette is approximately 28 times as opposed to 9 puffs on a regular cigarette.

Health Facts about Bidis

  • Bidis have been shown to contain even greater amounts of tar and nicotine then regular U.S. cigarettes.
  • Bidi cigarettes contain five times as much tar as regular cigarettes.
  • They have been shown to contain more carcinogenic elements than cigarettes.
  • Bidi cigarettes contain more than three times the amount of nicotine and carbon monoxide as traditional cigarettes.
  • Bidi smokers have a greater risk of heart disease, lung cancer and other cancers than do people who smoke traditional cigarettes.
  • Unlike the paper on a conventional cigarette, the tendu leaf is nonporous, so it prevents outside air from mixing with the inhaled smoke and diluting it.
  • Since bidi is hand-rolled, workers employed in bidi factories are at risk of developing cancerous conditions due to exposure to tobacco dust and flakes.

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Smoking bidis has been independently proven to cause:
  • Oral Cancers
  • Cancer of the larynx
  • Cancer of the esophagus
  • Lung cancer
  • High blood pressure
  • Coronary heart disease
  • Even those who never smoke a bidi are damaged by the mutagenic and carcinogenic compounds in the air. The dust mutates their skin and damages their chromosomes.

Bidi smoking and Youngsters

Bidis are popular among youngsters and school children, highly affected by the associated health hazards. They attract young smokers because they don’t carry any health warning, they are cheap, they are easier to obtain, and they are flavored and look like marijuana joints.

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  • It’s estimated that approximately 3 percent of current high school students smoke bidi cigarettes.
  • It’s also estimated that male high school students smoke bidi cigarettes at a rate twice as high as female high school students.
  • According to the Centers for Disease Control, 40% of youngsters in some urban areas, like Boston, have lighted up a bidi at least once.
  • Smoking bidis regularly during adolescence has also been shown to decrease final adult height by speeding up the closure of growth plates in the bones.

Sources and Additional Information:


  1. From personal experience, when i used to smoke cigarettes, i used to have morning phlegm, smoker's coughs, heavy chest feeling, etc. This was the same even when i switched to 1mg tar cigs. However, when i switched to beedis, all of the above problems ceased. Completely.

    I'm not saying that beedis are healthier. I'm just saying that the said problems stopped. But the experience is different with different beedis. When it comes to Ganesh beedis, the effects are similar to cigs. However, with Engine brand bidis, the above remains true.

    1. Hi Ed,

      Appreciate your comment. Indeed the reported effect of beedis is different than of cigarettes, but it also have strong personal flavor. I never tried them, so I do not have any personal opinions. But I am a cigarette smoker for 30 years, so I do understand what you mean.


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