Beedies, the Indian cigarettes

Beedies, the Indian cigarettes

A beedi (bidi, biri) is a small and thin Asian cigarette, produced by hand according to traditional recipes, practically not changed in the course of many centuries. Indian people call beedies “the cigarettes for poor people”. The beedies are made of cut leaves of raw tobacco wrapped in a leaf of Coromandel Ebony (Diospyros melanoxylon) known also as Temburini, and tied up with a colored thread. Beedies are handmade cigarettes without chemical admixtures; they don’t demand any complex manufacturing (unlike the usual cigarettes, which is made of tobacco soaking in special solutions to provide regular smouldering). Often they are made by women. Sometimes it becomes a real family business, which in most cases has nothing in common with sanitary standards and other necessary norms. From 4,5 to 10 million of people in India work (from diverse sources) on beedi manufacturing. For every thousand beedies the workers get about 40-75. A woman can roll about 800-1200 beedies a day. According to some information, up to 15 percent of beedies are made by children.

There are many kinds of beedies, which differ from each other by taste and strength. Frequently one sort of beedies can be distinguished from another by the color of thread they are tied with. Pink thread means this sort is rather mild. You shouldn’t think that smoking a beedi is harmless, because you know - it contains tobacco. The beedies contain both tar and nicotine. One beedi contains 2,4 mg of nicotine and 24 mg of tar. (For example: non-filter cigarettes “Prima” contain 1,2 mg of nicotine and 16 mg of tar). So the beedi is twice as dangerous comparing to non-filter cigarettes, and in several times - comparing to filter cigarettes.

The big concentration of tar and nicotine in such a small cigarette (containing far less tobacco, than a usual cigarette) is connected with raw tobacco of a low quality used in beedies, and the additional source of tar – tendu leaves. There is an opinion, that the beedies are less dangerous because they don’t contain waxed paper, flavors and other admixtures, used in cigarettes. This issue is however quite disputable, because the most hazard of cigarettes is connected with tobacco and its combustion products, but not with flavors, paper etc. And the beedies contain cheap tobacco of a rather low quality.

Moreover the tendu leaf, which the tobacco is wrapped in, smoulders slowly, so you have to take stronger and more frequent puffs when smoking a beedi, comparing to a usual cigarette. Due to frequent puffs the beedi smoker gets great doses of harmful substances. Thus, the amount of carbon monoxide and nicotine in beedies exceeds the same amount in cigarettes by 3 times; the amount of tar – by 5 times. The research indicates that beedi smoking increases risk of lung cancer. At present 800 thousand of people die in India because of tobacco; 600 thousand of beedi smokers are among them.

The smoking of usual beedies with tobacco causes giddiness, loss of coordination, elevation of the pulse, excitement, sometimes sickness, excessive salivation etc. These symptoms may continue up to 10-20 minutes and are more apparent for non-smokers. They are caused mostly by a big dose of nicotine (as a matter of fact a light nicotine poisoning takes place), that is why the smokers (used to nicotine) are less influenced. Almost the same changes in organism will appear after 2-3 cigarettes smoked one by one.

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