U.S. Says Unhealthy Bidis Popular In Schools
ATLANTA (Reuters) - Four out of 10 U.S. high school students surveyed have tried smoking bidis, flavored hand-rolled cigarettes produced in India and Southeast Asia that produce far more nicotine, carbon monoxide and tar than regular cigarettes, federal h
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said the first-ever survey of bidi use among high school students found that 40 percent of 642 Massachusetts teen-agers had smoked bidis at least once in their lifetime and 16 percent had smoked one during the past month.
Eight percent of the students had smoked 100 or more bidis during their lifetime, the CDC said.
``They appear trendy, but they are more harmful and probably more addicting than traditional cigarettes,'' said Michael Eriksen, director of the CDC's Office of Smoking and Health.
Bidis should carry the same warning labels as cigarettes but often do not, Eriksen said.
``They are supposed to carry the same warning labels because the Federal Trade Commission says these fit the definition of cigarettes,'' he said.
The CDC said further research is needed to assess how restrictions on sales and advertising of bidis are being enforced.
Students said they smoked bidis because they tasted better than cigarettes and were cheaper or easier to buy. Thirteen percent said they thought bidis were safer than regular cigarettes.
``They are not only not a safe alternative to cigarettes, they're actually more harmful than cigarettes,'' Eriksen said.
Studies have shown that bidis, which are sold in flavors such as cherry, chocolate and mango, produce about three times as much carbon monoxide and nicotine and about five times as much tar as regular filtered cigarettes.
``Bidis are hand-rolled cigarettes that contain tobacco and are wrapped in a leaf called a tendu leaf, which is a non-tobacco product. They're typically brown and tied at one end with a string,'' Eriksen said.
Researchers said the tendu leaf wrapper used to make the cigarettes in India and other southeast Asian countries burns more slowly than regular cigarette papers, prompting smokers to breathe in more tar and other toxins because they inhale more often and more deeply.
``They are not filtered, and they have to be puffed much more frequently in order for them to be burned down,'' Eriksen said.
The CDC said bidi smokers are at risk of coronary heart disease and mouth, lung, stomach and liver cancer.
Eriksen said the Massachusetts study indicated blacks were more likely to smoke bidis than other high school students.