Bidis are more Dangerous than Cigarettes


Dr. Greene, my daughter has started smoking a new kind of chocolate cigarette called a “bidi”. She assures me they are all natural and not harmful at all. She says they contain no drugs. Do you know about them? Are bidis safe? She also smokes vanilla and strawberry bidis.
Concerned Parent – San Francisco, California

Dr. Greene’s Anwser:

Bidis are all the rage among teens. It is estimated that 3% of high school students and 2% of middle school students smoke them regularly. Dessert and smoking literally rolled into one! But this makes me rage! People who are trying to make a fortune have succeeded in putting another one over on our kids. Bidis are not new, and they are certainly not safe!

Soon after the Europeans discovered tobacco in the New World, Dutch and Portuguese traders decided to introduce tobacco to India and the East so that they would have highly profitable goods to carry in their ships in both directions.

Tobacco arrived in India in 1605.

For centuries now, the bidi, cheaply made from inferior ingredients, has been the cigarette of choice for those in poverty in India. Called “the poor man’s cigarette,” the bidi is made from the flakes and dust of dark tobacco leaves. Strong flavoring, such as vanilla, licorice, strawberry, cinnamon, or clove, is added to mask the poor quality of the tobacco. This concoction is then hand-rolled in a green or brown leaf by impoverished laborers in oppressive “factories.” The unfiltered final product is a small, slim cigarette, tied at both ends with a colorful thread.

I have not heard of bidis in the United States containing illegal drugs, though I have heard of opium-laced bidis in China. In some provinces of China, puffs from lighted cigarettes are given to infants and toddlers to stop them from crying (Tobacco Control, 1993; 2:7-8).

Bidis have long been popular among the poor in Bangladesh, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, and India who could not afford regular cigarettes. A single pack of bidis costs up to 40% of their average daily income. Bidis are now more popular than regular cigarettes in India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Nepal. Oral cancers have become the leading cause of cancer throughout this region, with 90% attributable to tobacco use (Tobacco or Health: A Global Status Report, World Health Organization, 1997).

India now produces more tobacco than does the United States and is a world leader in oral cancer. (India and the United States taken together produce only a fraction of the amount that world-leader China produces in conjunction with American tobacco companies).

Now bidis are arriving on the shelves of convenience stores and gas stations across the United States. Touted as new, cool, safe, and natural, the bidis are priced right for the teen budget – only $2.00 for a pack of 20.

Smoking bidis has been independently proven to cause:

  • Cancer of the tongue (International Journal Cancer, 1989; 44(4):617-621)
  • Cancer of the gums (British Journal of Cancer, 1989; 60:638-643)
  • Cancer of the floor of the mouth (International Journal Cancer, 1989; 44(4):617-621)
  • Other squamous cell oral cancers (Indian Journal of Cancer, 1997; 34:49-58)
  • Cancer of the larynx (International Journal of Cancer, 1990;45:879-882)
  • Cancer of the esophagus (International Journal of Cancer ,1991; 49:485-489)
  • Lung cancer (Thorax, 1982; 37:343-347)
  • High blood pressure (Journal of the Association of Physicians of India, 1995; 43:253-258)
  • Coronary heart disease (Indian Heart Journal, 1989; 41:62-65)
  • Cancer of the stomach (Public Health 2000;114:123–127)


The sweet-smelling smoke of bidis is dangerous–more dangerous than cigarettes. I am angry that they are being marketed to children.

Each bidi cigarette is loaded with cancer-causing, chromosome-damaging, genetic poisons, far more than are found in a regular cigarette. “The safe alternative” also contains two to three times the tar and nicotine of regular cigarettes. In a chilling experiment, smoke from regular cigarettes and bidis was given to Swiss albino mice. Bidi smoke reliably caused cancer in doses small enough that the regular cigarette smoke left the mice apparently healthy (Journal of Cancer Research and Clinical Oncology, 1988; 114:647-649).

And our children naively inhale this toxic smoke, without even the benefit of a filter.

But our teens do not care about this. Their sense of invulnerability prevents them from fully appreciating the long-term risks. So, if you have preteen or school-aged children, start talking to them now about bidis. They are still at an age when knowledge of these consequences can prevent them from being duped later on.

Teens might care, though, that when smoked during adolescence, bidis hasten the closure of the growth plates in the long bones–stopping them from ever reaching their full height. Those who smoke as few as two bidis daily for as little as 2.5 years have been proven to end up significantly shorter than their peers (Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, 1980; 34:295-298).

Because of their sense of justice, teens might care about the poor working conditions of the impoverished factory laborers rolling their bidis. This “natural” product is produced in toxic conditions. Even those who never smoke a bidi are damaged by the mutagenic and carcinogenic compounds in the air (International Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health, 1992; 64:101-104). The dust mutates their skin and damages their chromosomes (Journal of Cancer Research and Clinical Oncology, 1994; 120:485-489). They get sick and die at an alarming rate just from making the bidis (Mutation Research, 1995; 334:139-144 ).

Teens might also care that shrewd marketers are playing them for fools. The fiendish, sweet-smelling smoke wafting through teen hangouts is the scent of profit for savvy businesspeople.

The Associated Press reported on May 10, 1999, that 58% of students in four San Francisco High Schools have already tried bidis. This is alarming! Let’s get the word out.

Medical Review on: May 25, 2009
About the Author
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Dr. Greene is a practicing physician, author, national and international TEDx speaker, and global health advocate. He is a graduate of Princeton University and University of California San Francisco.
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Recent Comments

This is false information. A Bidi and beedi are two completely different things… and with simple research you can see that yourself. You obviously did plenty of research on this topic, meaning you know good and well they are NOT the same (although they do have similar English pronunciation). What this Dr. is talking about in his article is a BEEDI, not Bidi.

I am smoking beedies since my age 0f 18 till now at the age of 64.
I am enjoying these. there n0 medical problems due to smoking for 46 years.
how can anyone believe in your research claim that you are reporting?
K suhas

Hello thing for sure i smoke cigs and i also like a bidi every now and then.and no im not an advocate of neither.but bidis doesn’t have all the additives as a cigarette so it makes them less harmful.the GOV will not approve of anything that doesn’t benefit them so why not outlaw them.Money makes the world go around and if the GOV is not in anyones pocket then screw them.
My thought and my opinion.

Add your message here which one to pick if I’m a regular smoker, bidis or cigarettes? and why?

[language redacted]
nonsence words from the doc
I’m smoking from 4 years it’s get me high for some time I feel rlex
doc u should try it too men
l love bidis💗💗💗👌💕❤💖

How much did the Tobacco companies pay you to write this bullshit!!!

Nope. No tobacco company relationships. Just our point of view.

Such a lot of panic. Fear, uncertainty, and doubt sells a lot of people on a lot of things, but it isn’t a particularly bright way to live your life. Stress kills, and fear releases all kinds of things that damage your body if you live that way.

Burning anything produces chemicals that are carcinogenic in large amounts. Inhaling smoke from burning anything is not without its risks. This is not unique to tobacco; you would have roughly the same risk of cancer if you were smoking cigarettes made with spinach leaves instead of tobacco leaves. Tobacco has many benefits, not the least of which is a feeling of relaxation. Stress kills, remember?

The real killer we’re discussing here is not tobacco, or even smoking. The real killer is EXCESS. Most people live their lives in such a way that they have at least one excess, and that excess will generally cause them harm, and often it is noticeable. Be that excess caffeine, smoking, alcohol, food, sugar, idleness, or even work, living a lifestyle of excess will often cause problems, albeit if someone has only one excess, it may not be a big problem.

If your teen is smoking a few times a day, this is moderate. Combined with a lifestyle of moderation, I do not believe this poses any significant risk. If your teen is smoking a few times a day, sleeping around, drinking heavily, and playing video games 6 hours a day, his/her lifestyle is not moderate, and you have something to worry about, but the smoking might actually be the one thing they are doing in moderation.

People need to learn to live moderately, and the teen years are the time of life when that moderation is most desperately needed, and least likely to be seen. Being a good parent means teaching your kids to take everything in life in moderation, so their excesses don’t catch up to them later. I admire your concern for your teen, but just be sure that it is directed constructively.

I agree that excess is a huge issue. One of the problems with many of the things that people tend to use in excess is the addictive nature of the substance. It’s hard for a lot of people to eat sugar in small quantities, for example.

If anyone thinks breathing in the smoke of burning leaves into your lungs is healthy… I’m surprised they remember to breath.

i’m Gaurav from india,20 years old, i started smoking bidi for last 1 week ,thanx to this information i’m leaving smoking…you saved my life……..

This is great news!

Your health will likely improve very shortly and for many years to come, your family will thank you for stopping.


Thank you Dr Greene for the valuable information. Good Day.

Thank you so much sir

My Grandpa Smoking Bidi from his 20’s now he is 76 still smoking bidi’s everyday

Bad report. Cigarette is more harmful than beedi. Who has given Dr degree to you.

Do u have any explanation

I certainly agree with the doctor if I knew what I know now I wouldn’t be suffering from cancer now all because of smoking beedie

Fantastic piece of work Mr.Dr. Greene! A doctor! but do understand his business sides pretty well. Just like a MBA or BCOM grads would do to sell his fist product for his company. This is what we learn in business schools ” how you can market your product”. I guess pick one product which you can talk about and while talking or writing in your case feeds and blend in fine with the introduction of your own products. You will grab attentions and traffics moving, and this is however one way you can bring traffics and sale your books. I’m damn right Mr. Greene? You answer.
Have you smoked one beedi in your life? Can you present your live case that you handled or researched? Where is your conclusion over beedi are based on? You are a pediatrician can you present cases where you noted a change of physical conditions due to smoking beedi on your patients? Do you have those research stats? Where are chemicals comparison between beedi and cigarettes?
Beedi rolling is a homegrown business in India and it has been growing household business until Western cigarettes companies showed up in Indian and since then they are talking $h1t just like this Doctor Greene, against beedi so the western tobacco companies can suck more bloods and kill the rural business. Just like British did years ago and still it’s affecting India today.
Hello readers who are reading my comments: Just to let you know this a battle between Big Giant corporation and small scale industries. Cancer got nothing to do with it. We all have cancer cells in your body so as Dr Greene’s body. What tiggers cancer formation is acidic body. Acidic bodies are more prone to get boost by nicotine present in our blood cells. But first thing first maintain your Ph scale. If you can’t maintain it just don’t catch bad habits like smoking, etc.
This is the big problem we are facing, in today’s world. Business becomes crucial and harmful when we need to manipulate to grow our own buyers or consumers. This an ignorant approach, business do not need its rough sides to be the weapon to launch in the market. Dr. Greene you could have generously choose a path to promote yourself or your book to your audience. You don’t have to create or borrow third parties researches and act like an saviour. Good luck to your garbage “book”, I mean your product..Happy business!

Beedi has less tobacco than a normal cig,

Hiiieee Sir,,
Sir My Father Has An Habit Of Smoking Beedi’s N Cigarette,,If I Would Refuse Him To Smoke,,Than We Get Be A Part Of World War 3,,So Sir Pls.Let Me Know That Is There Any Tobacoo Free Beedi’s N Cigarette’s And Which R Also Healthy N look Like A Xerox Of these Toxic Things,,
Sir Pls. Rply Soon!! :) :)

Thanx very much sir with your help i’m looking 4ward to quit this rubbish

Plz notify me about the ill effects

They have had these things around since I was a kid. That was years ago. So obviously They were taken off the market years ago for a reason! Why the heck a are they even making a comeback? This country needs to get it together….

Stupid american.

I feel sorry for you


Fantastic!! My only wish that the teens live a smoke free life for that matter everyone who smokes and harms the non smokers.!! I wonder how can people hurt their own life and existence. !! Sad reality of this world!

bidises are good even if there bad for you