Senator Durbin Seeks Investigation of bidis
Sen. Dick Durbin on Tuesday urged federal officials to investigate into the fact that high-nicotine, hand-rolled, flavored cigarettes imported from India are being sold widely at health food stores.
In a letter to Federal Trade Commission Chairman Robert Pitofsky, the Illinois Democrat said selling the thin, flavored, unfiltered cigarettes called beedies or bidis "alongside vitamins and alternative medicine products could be a form of deceptive advertising.'' With their shape like marijuana joints and inexpensive price, a paper-wrapped bundle of 20 goes for about $2, the cigarettes are a growing fad among teen-agers. Federal health officials and anti-smoking activists say many youngsters don't realize bidis are even more dangerous than regular cigarettes. The FTC already is investigating reports that many bidis are often sold without required warning labels. Durbin also asked the Food and Drug Administration to include bidis on its list of tobacco products to check when sting operations are conducted to see if retailers are illegally selling to minors. He cited a study by the San Francisco Anti-Smoking Project that bidis were sold to underage buyers without age identification twice as often as regular cigarettes. "The health risks of bidis, unfortunately, are not widely known," Durbin wrote.