Bidi is a type of hand-rolled herbal cigarettes that originated in India. It looks like an ordinary cigarette, but a bidi is made from dried betel leaves or bits of dark tobacco leaves. The leaves are rolled with either green/brown leaves or cigarette paper. A colorful thread ties all the component of the bidi together.
For centuries, bidis have been consumed in India, especially among the poorest of the poor. It has a strong flavor. To mask the poor quality of the ingredient, bidis are flavored with licorice, cinnamon, clove, vanilla and other aromatic spices and herbs. When inhaled, the smoke has a sweet, spicy fragrance. Usually, the flavorings attract children and teens to smoking bidis.
The popularity of bidis goes beyond the slums of India. These hand rolled cigarettes are slowly making their way into the west, particularly in the US. Marketed as a cheaper, less dangerous alternative to conventional cigarettes, bidis are truly anything but. Health experts warn that these products are even deadlier than tobacco cigarettes. Why? Let’s find out:
1. A Cocktail of Chemicals
Surprise, this low-quality herbal cigarette contains a cocktail of chemicals! Studies show that bidis contain dangerous compounds such as ammonia, phenol, and hydrogen cyanide. These compounds are also present in cigarettes but in very low doses compared to the level found in bidis. Smoking bidis regularly could cause chemical poisoning.
Ever wonder why secondhand smoking is sometimes deemed as more dangerous than firsthand smoking? Most cigarettes feature a filter, the white cottony end of a cigarette. Unlike the smoke a user inhales from a tobacco cigarette, the smoke inhaled by bystanders is unfiltered.
A bidi does not contain a filter. Because it is made from the deepest recesses of India, the quality isn’t just poor, safety goes out of the window too. Inhaling the smoke of a bidi exposes a user to unfiltered smoke. This adds to the dangerous elements of a bidi. Worse, studies show that bidi users tend to take frequent, deeper puffs than cigarette smokers. That means the unfiltered smoke go deeper into the lungs, wreaking havoc to the system.
3. Highly Addictive
Studies show that cigarette smoking is harder to quit than heroin. The same chemical that makes conventional cigarettes addictive also makes bidis hard to quit. Bidis made from bits of tobacco leaves contain nicotine. This addictive compound hooks users and reels them in for good. Incredibly, bidis contain fewer tobacco leaves than an average cigarette but the nicotine level is higher in comparison.
4. Causes Tissue Breakdown
Bidis are marketed as “herbal cigarettes” but that doesn’t mean these products are less dangerous alternatives to smoking cigarettes! The same dangers associated with cigarette smoking are also linked to smoking bidi. Studies show that bidi consumption can lead to cardiovascular disease, respiratory ailments, and lung cancer.
5. Causes Cancer
Bidis contain more cancer-causing compounds than your average tobacco cigarettes. A 1989 study found that smoking bidis could cause cancer of the tongue. Since then, bidi has been linked to other forms of cancer including cancer of the larynx, roof of the mouth, larynx, stomach and esophagus. It can also cause hypertension and coronary heart disease.