Bidis more harmful than cigarettes; stricter controls needed
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.