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Bidis Taking Over America

Richa Goyal

As an Indian American, I am usually very excited to see Indian products being sold in stores. I am always pleased every time I see a rug, lamp, clothes, or even bindis that say ďmade in India.Ē I love seeing my friends buy Indian jewelry or clothing. It makes me proud that the Indian culture is appreciated all around the world.

However, thereís a product from India that Iím not too proud to see in America. This product is called a bidi. A bidi is a type of cigarette that is hand-rolled, and looks like a marijuana joint. Surprisingly, bidis are considered to be more dangerous then cigarettes because they are said to contain higher levels of toxins. According to a study recently released by DPH, bidis are unfiltered and the smoke yields three times more nicotine and carbon monoxide and five times more tar than conventional cigarette smoke. Bidi smokers are at an increased risk of developing coronary heart disease and cancers of the mouth, pharynx and larynx, lung, esophagus, stomach, and liver. Bidi use during pregnancy can also cause prenatal mortality.

The origin of the bidi dates back many years ago. First introduced in India, it was considered a substitute for cigarettes for lower class people and was considered a high fashion statement. But then it grew into a teen fad, and suddenly was appearing in other countries. Whatís so appalling to me is the way this product is made. According to the National Center for Tobacco Free Kids, hundreds of thousands of children are rolling bidis each day for as little as 4 rupees a day. That is a mere 10 cents per day! I do not know about anyone else, but you will never see me smoke a bidi not only because of the harmful effects, but also because of the children suffering to make these.

In the United States, bidis are purchased for $1.50-$4.00 for one package of 20 and are available in different flavors (cherry, chocolate, etc). The bidis were introduced into the American market during the early 1990s and the use of them seems to have escalated among teens in America. In fact, a CDC survey was conducted in 1999 stating that in Massachusetts alone, out of 642 teens, 40% had smoked bidis at least once during their lifetimes and 16% were current bidi smokers. I am sure those percentages grew in the past 4 years.

It has come to the point where people my age praise my country for coming up with such a product. That is not what I want India to be known for. Not for some brown-papered tobacco joint that is responsible for killing hundreds of people each day. I believe bidis should be banned in America. Or teens should be educated about them because they can be ten times as bad as cigarettes. I am lucky enough to have learned about the harmful effects from my parents, and I hope other teens will be educated with the same disturbing information that I have heard about so that we can kick bidis out of our lives.

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