Bidis more harm­ful than cig­a­rettes; stricter con­trols needed

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Se­vere res­pi­ra­tory im­pair­ment, sig­nif­i­cant car­diores­pi­ra­tory con­di­tions and fol­low-up mor­tal­ity were found among bidi smok­ers as against cig­a­rette smok­ers and non­smok­ers, claims a new study in The Lancet Global Health jour­nal. The study, aimed at as­sess­ing the as­so­ci­a­tion be­tween bidi smok­ing, health prob­lems and death, has rec­om­mended stricter con­trols and reg­u­la­tion to dis­suade peo­ple from smok­ing bidis

The largest-ever prospec­tive international com­mu­ni­ty­based co­hort study of its kind cov­ered 14,919 men across five cen­tres in In­dia, be­sides one each in Bangladesh and Pak­istan. “The health and eco­nomic bur­den caused due to bidi smok­ing are tremen­dous,” said Dr San­jeev Nair from the Depart­ment of Pul­monary Medicine, Thiruvananthapuram Med­i­cal Col­lege, one of the co-au­thors of the study. He ad­vo­cated stricter con­trols and reg­u­la­tion on bidi smok­ing, say­ing in­creas­ing taxes to dis­suade con­sump­tion would be a wel­come pol­icy ini­tia­tive.

An­other co-au­thor, Dr K Vi­jayaku­mar, sec­re­tary, Health Ac­tion by Peo­ple, said the study had shown con­clu­sively that there was no safe thresh­old from the harm­ful ef­fects of smok­ing and even low­in­ten­sity, clin­i­cally triv­ial smok­ing was as­so­ci­ated with res­pi­ra­tory im­pair­ment. “The way for­ward should be to cre­ate 100 per cent to­bacco smoke-free en­vi­ron­ments that would ben­e­fit the poor and young sig­nif­i­cantly,” he said.

Reaf­firm­ing ex­ist­ing in­for­ma­tion on the enor­mous im­pact of bidi smok­ing on the poor, the study found that heavy smok­ers were more likely to come from ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties and from lower so­cio-eco­nomic sec­tions. Fur­ther, the study pointed to a marked rise in de­creased lung func­tion among older bidi smok­ers.

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