Policy & Issues

Nicotine level higher in bidi smokers: study

File picture of a sadhu smoking 'bidi.'

File picture of a sadhu smoking 'bidi.'

The verdict is out. Putting out the fire on the debate about which is more harmful to the body, bidi or cigarette, doctors at Vallabhbhai Patel Chest Institute here have proved that while both are injurious to health, bidi can do more harm than cigarette.

“The idea of the research conducted at the Institute was to ascertain which form of smoking was more harmful. We found that bidi smokers had a breath carbon monoxide level of 19 parts per million as opposed to 13 parts per million of cigarette smokers. This when breath carbon monoxide level of a non-smoker is 4.07 parts per million,” said Dr. Raj Kumar, Head of Department of Respiratory Ailments and Applied Immunology at Vallabhbhai Patel Chest Institute.

As part of the research, which was conducted last year and published early this year, the group studied 148 people smoking bidi and 241 people smoking cigarette in the average age group of 39 years and those who had been smoking for an average of 18 years.

The study indicated that nicotine levels were high in bidi smokers and since the nature of exhalation was longer, more nicotine was reaching the lungs. In the case of cigarette smoking, the nicotine level was comparatively lower as filters were available in cigarettes and smokers also took time gap between puffs.

“While there is no doubts that both bidi and cigarette smoking is injurious to health, the study showed that bidi did more harm to the body. The research was also conducted to finally put an end to the endless debate about which is more harmful bidi or cigarette The Institute runs a tobacco cessation centre for tobacco abusers where we try and tell people about the fact that bidi smoking is equally harmful. We also try and reach out to the public in market and other public places and circulate literature to make people aware about the dangers of tobacco abuse,” added Dr. Kumar.

Stressing the need for strong measures including pictorial warning to discourage people from smoking, Public Health Foundation of India president Dr. K. Srinath Reddy said: “We want the Government to bring in strong pictorial health warnings on tobacco products to inform people about the wide spectrum of health consequences of tobacco use. It is every individual's right to be adequately informed before making a decision and strong pictorial warnings will help the tobacco users and potential users to recognise the deadly consequences of consuming tobacco in any form. While severe harm is being inflicted on the Indian people by the tobacco industry, the Government should not be complicit through ineffective or delayed action to control the menace.”

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Printable version | May 19, 2022 8:53:54 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/health/policy-and-issues//article59896431.ece