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Natural Awakenings San Diego

Are Bidis a Safe Alternative to Cigarettes?

Sep 30, 2013 10:15AM ● By Dr. Ginger Marable

Sales have recently doubled for the fastest growing fad among young smokers, the bidi. Widely available in the U.S. for about $2 per pack, even in health food stores, the bidi is marketed as a natural alternative to cigarettes with no harmful additives. Known as “the poor person’s cigarette,” bidis are made in India and Southeast Asia from flakes and powder of cheap, dark, unprocessed tobacco, hand-rolled in an unfiltered, non-porous tendu leaf, then baked and tied with a thread, looking like a marijuana joint. They are strongly flavored with clove, cinnamon, menthol, mint, chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, mango, grape, root beer or other candies, herbal and fruit flavors to appeal to youngsters. Between 13 and 60 percent of American pre-teens and high school students have tried them.

Here’s the problem: The National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) has concluded that bidis pose a more dangerous health risk than conventional cigarettes. The Centers for Disease Control have found that bidis have three times more nicotine and carbon dioxide and five times more tar than American cigarettes, and that smokers are at two times the risk of lung and oral cancers, among others, and five times the risk of heart disease. The bone growth of youngsters who smoke bidis is shortened and pregnant women who smoke bidis are in danger of promoting fetal death. The flavoring concentrations produce toxic compounds 7,500 times greater than those in American cigarettes.

The 700 trillion bidis sold annually are mostly produced by hundreds of thousands of women and children in sweatshops, where they roll up to 2000 in a 14-hour day for about $18 a month. Workers suffer from tuberculosis, asthma, chromosome and skin damage, and a high death rate.

Federal regulations require the Surgeon General’s warning on the pack, along with the federal tax stamp, but not all packages are in compliance. It is also illegal to sell bidis to minors, and several states have made bidis illegal, although they are readily available to youngsters over the Internet.

While bidis are an alternative to conventional cigarettes, they are definitely not a safe alternative. The only safe alternative is not to smoke at all.


Ginger Marable, owner of Absolutely Smoke Free—1 Hour!, holds a PhD in Human Behavior and is a Certified Hypnotherapist/Smoking Cessation Specialist. Quit smoking forever in about an hour with advanced, personalized hypnotherapy. More information is available at AbsolutelySmokeFree.com, or call 760-420-2279 for a free consultation.

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