A new study conducted on various smoking products reveals the harmful effects of bidi as compared to cigarettes. The questionnaire based research under Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology (PURE) study coordinated by Population Health Research Institute of Ontario, Canada, was conducted on 14919 men aged 35-70 years at 7 centers in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Considering the low rate of smoking in women in South Asia, the study analyzed men from different communities, including the light smokers (10 packs/year), heavy cigarette smokers (>10 packs/year) and heavy bidi smokers (>10 packs/year). The results were published recently on The Lancet Global Health.

Relevant data like cooking fuel, education, asset index, income spent on food, physical activity, dietary intake, and cardio respiratory symptoms were also included in the research and were collected for an average span of 5-6 years.


South Asia has world’s largest community of smokers, with almost half proportion of bidi smokers. Image credits: Amanjeev via Flickr

Often neglected in various studies, non-cigarettes tobacco products, such as bidis are inexpensive, minimally regulated hand-rolled products available in South Asia. These products contain higher levels of nicotine, tar and carbon monoxide levels for a small amount of tobacco as compared to cigarettes. Bidi smoking is a common practice in India while cigarettes are smoked in Pakistan and Bangladesh according to the study.

The findings revealed that the largest effect of heavy bidi smoking was on respiratory events. Light smokers and heavy cigarette smokers however showed increased risks of death and cardiovascular events. In total, the study found increased risks of cardiorespiratory events with bidi smoking independent of socioeconomic status.

South Asia has world’s largest community of smokers, with almost half proportion of bidi smokers. Regional and global anti-tobacco frameworks should include better control of bidis, suggests the study.

Featured Image Credits: Matale – Tobacco factory, by Hassage via Flickr