First study reveals bidi's role as India's silent killer

First study reveals bidi's role as India's silent killer
The Indian Express; Tuesday, 13 May 2008

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Over 100 million people in India smoke bidi and more people die due to smoking bidis than all other forms of tobacco combined, says a bidi monograph, the first study of the kind conducted anywhere in the world. It further says that 800 million bidis are sold in the country each year.

While 19 per cent of tobacco consumption in India is in the form of cigarettes, 53 per cent is smoked as bidis. Roughly about eight bidis are sold for every cigarette, underlines Bidi Smoking and Public Health, released by Union Ministry of Health and Family welfare on Monday.

"Tobacco is harmful in all its forms. Anti-tobacco advocacy is a major task of this ministry," said Naresh Dayal, Secretary, Health Ministry, while releasing the monograph. Dayal added that Food and Agricultural Organisation estimated that 29 lakh persons grow tobacco for bidis in the country.

The current bidi smoking prevalence is high (10.6 per cent-14.2 per cent) in Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland and Sikkim, intermediately high (4.6 per cent-9.2 per cent) in Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Chandigarh and Meghalaya, low (1 per cent or less) in Goa, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Karnataka, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh and Punjab, intermediately low (1.1 per cent-2.9 per cent) in Maharastra, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Tripura, Orissa, Uttarakhand, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh.

According to the monograph, regular prevalence of smoking is highest in Mizoram and lowest in Punjab. "Bidi smoking is found to be more common in households consuming paan or alcohol," says the report, authored by 35 experts and 51 reviewers.

While students are more inclined towards cigarette smoking, bidi smoking is no less with 12.5 per cent students in India smoking bidis. In Orissa, 19.7 per cent of men and 1.4 per cent of women smoke bidi on a daily basis.

"Bidi contains much less tobacco than cigarette, has more tar, nicotine and other toxic substances. It contains most potent cancer causing agents," said Prakash Gupta, one of the authors of the monograph.

Regarding diseases caused due to bidi smoking, the report says in India the major effect of tobacco is seen in oral cavity, pharynx and oesophagus, which together account for 75 per cent of tobacco-related cancers.

According to the report, bidi and tuberculosis go hand in hand. Compared to unfiltered cigarette, bidi smoke contains higher levels of carbon monoxide, ammonia, hydrogen cyanide, phenol volatile phenols.


- 85 per cent of the world's tobacco for bidi is grown in India

- Bidi crop cultivation occupies 35 per cent of the total area under tobacco cultivation, mostly in Gujarat, Karnataka and Maharashtra

- 1,50,000 tonnes of tobacco and 30,00 tonnes of tendu leaves are used to make bidis.

- Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan are leading suppliers of tendu leaves