Tobacco, hand rolled in Tendu leaves, are called Beedies. It is the cheapest cigarettes produced in Asia and more than 85% is produced in India and from the 240 millions of tobacco users approximately more than 100 million people are smoking beedies.

Beedies are more dangerous than cigarettes because they contain more tar, nicotine and other cancer producing substances, carbon monoxide, ammonia and also contain the cancer producing nitrosamines. One third of 6,00,000 TB deaths in India go to the account of Beedi smoking. But, surprisingly, they have less tobacco than in cigarettes.

Beedies have three times more nicotine, produce three times more carbon monoxide and have 5 times more tar than cigarettes. The lack of filter and also the lack of porosity of the leaves used for wrapping may be the reason for this.

The risk of the cancer of the lung, mouth, oesophagus and stomach is higher than those of a non-smoker.

The risk for chronic bronchitis is four times increased and there is also three times higher risk of heart attack than the non-smokers.

The illiterate and poor in India are the majority of beedi smokers. Others also smoke beedies.

The argument of economy and jobs allow us to produce tobacco, opium from poppy seeds e.g. in Afghanistan and also cocaine in South America. Who all earn huge money out of this nobody knows but the poor man is suffering and dying. Unfortunately money and moral starts with “m”. Try to be clean and if many think like this we could solve any problem.

That is why it is very important to generate awareness.

The risk of passive smoking is same like in cigarettes; it is equally bad or more than bad as in normal beedi smoking. Particularly, it is very bad for children and pregnant.

There are more than 2,90,000 beedi growers in India and around 4.5 million people are employed in beedi industry, without suitable alternative job opportunities, it is impossible to ban it immediately. Moreover, these are the jobs of rural India. But, it should be started slowly with right projects so that within a decade we could ban it.

The tobacco industry tries to lure women and youth to smoke in India. As a clinical toxicologist I have seen lot of problems in these groups. With the ban in different countries, they do still very aggressive advertisements to get young, new customers.

Beedies are banned in some countries and in most of the countries it is available even with different flavours. I used to laugh when they try to convince me by saying that it is healthy because it is not rolled in paper but in a leaf, a natural product. Of course, it is with a natural product, but brings unnatural death for most of the smokers.

What are the occupational hazards of the beedi industries? Mostly the women and the girls in rural India do this job; they suffer a lot, not because they are smoking but because they breathe the dust there. Moreover, this is the most unorganized industry in India without any control from any side. Most of this work is done in the home by women and girls and the result is child labour and large number of school dropouts among girls. Boys are not at all involved in this work, what a funny world?

Here it is not only the beedi smokers who should be helped but also the girls and women engaged in this industry. It is our national duty to do lot for the health of women and girls who may be the double losers as passive smokers as well as due to their occupational risks.

There is no safe tobacco product in our world.