Attorneys General Call for Crackdown on Bidi Cigarettes Minors Able to Purchase Harmful Tobacco Products on the Internet
PHOENIX, Dec. 3 /PRNewswire/ -- Attorneys General from all 50 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands are urging federal officials and Congressional representatives to take action to stop the importation of hand-rolled flavored cigarettes produced primarily in
The cigarettes, called bidis, are an even greater health risk than traditional cigarettes and are flavored to make them attractive to children.
The Attorneys General have drafted letters to Health and Human Services Secretary Donna E. Shalala, the Federal Trade Commission, U.S. Customs Service Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly, and the Chairs and ranking minority members of several Congressional committees detailing the dangers posed to American youth by bidis and the possibility that the manufacture of bidis involves indentured children's labor.
On November 24, 1999, the U.S. Customs Service banned the importation of Mangalore Ganesh Bidis upon receipt of evidence that indentured children's labor produced the bidis.
``We are writing to Congress and to federal agencies to urge that the federal government do everything possible to enforce laws to ensure that bidis are not available to children and youth in the U.S.,'' the Attorneys General wrote.
``The states, for our part, intend to do whatever we can to stop the sale of bidis to minors and to work with the federal government in whatever way we can to end this threat to the health and safety of our children,'' the letter adds.
Bidis are puffed more frequently than regular cigarettes to prevent them from going out. Inhaling a bidi cigarette requires great pulmonary effort due to its shape and poor combustibility. Consequently, bidi smokers breathe in greater quantities of tar and other toxins than smokers of regular cigarettes.(1)
In addition, bidis contain more than three times the amount of nicotine and more than five times the amount of tar than regular cigarette smoke.(2)
Studies have found that bidi smokers have two times the risk of lung cancer than those who smoke Indian filtered cigarettes, have five times the risk of suffering heart disease as non-smokers, are more at risk for cancers of the throat, oral cavity, pharynx, larynx, lungs, esophagus, stomach, and liver than regular smokers.(3)
The Attorneys General noted that bidis produced for the American market, unlike those made for Indian consumption, are flavored to taste like strawberry, chocolate, mandarin orange, vanilla, grape, lemon-lime, clove, mint, cinnamon, wild cherry, mango, cardamon, licorice, or raspberry. The flavorings make bidis more attractive to minors.
Bidis are readily available at most smoke shops, gas stations, liquor stores, ethnic food stores, and selected health stores.
Bidis can also be purchased through the Internet and recent sting operations by numerous state Attorneys General offices indicated most on-line sellers did nothing to verify the ages of the undercover minors before selling them the cigarettes. The children and youth who participated in the undercover buys ranged in age from nine to seventeen years.
A nine year-old child successfully purchased bidis over the telephone using a toll-free number provided by a web site. In another instance, a minor who purchased bidis from the same seller received free sample packs of mango, grape, and lemon-lime bidis with her order.
The Attorneys General issued their call for action during the Winter Meeting of the National Association of Attorneys General near Phoenix, Arizona.
Signing the letters to federal officials and Congressional representatives were Attorneys General from Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virgin Islands, Virginia, Washington state, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.
The National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) was founded in 1907. NAAG's mission is to facilitate interaction among Attorneys General as peers and to facilitate the enhanced performance of Attorneys General and their staffs. NAAG fosters an environment of cooperative leadership, helping Attorneys General respond effectively, individually and collectively, to emerging state and federal issues.
(1) Jayant K., Pakhale SS. Toxic constituents in bidi smoke. In: Sanghvi LD, Notani P, eds. Tobacco and health: the Indian scene. Bombay, India: Tata Memorial Center, 1989.
(2) Rickert WS. Determinatin of yields of ``tar,'' nicotine, and carbon monoxide from bidi cigarettes: final report. Ontario, Canada: Labstat International, Inc., 1999.
(3) Gupta PC, Hamner JE III, Murti PR, eds. Control of tobacco-related cancers and other diseases; proceedings of an international symposium. Bombay, India: Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Oxford University Press, 1992.