New study: Compelling, in-person communication of Bidi smoking risks informs, influences decision to quit

Recent research from Mira B. Aghi, PhD and Cecily S. Ray, MPH both from the Healis Sekhsaria Institute for Public Health, highlighted the impactful conversations that compel bidi smokers to consider taking steps to quit. Bidis, thin cigarettes filled with tobacco flakes, are popular, inexpensive and typically used by low-income populations in India. They deliver two to three times more nicotine and tar during inhalation than cigarettes, posing an increased threat for oral cancers, heart disease, lung disease and smoke.

For the study, Dr. Aghi provided in-person information to bidi smokers about the consequences of tobacco use, aiming to learn whether it would make them decide to quit and better understand their reasoning. She spoke with 47 construction workers from four sites in Green Park Extension, South Delhi, carrying photos of disease conditions stemming from bidi use. After explaining each of the harms using non-scientific lingo, Dr. Aghi discussed the real-time and long term effects of bidi smoking and asked the participants to rank their perceptions of the conditions’ seriousness.

Though the participants’ responses were mixed, Dr. Aghi said they were encouraging, as the majority found the information convincing and believable. Each of the construction workers paused to reflect upon their habitual bidi smoking and the myriad reasons to quit, especially considering the potential disease consequences. A few participants said they were ready to quit that same day. Dr. Aghi also had participants rank the benefits of quitting by priority – smelling better, appearing cleaner and keeping environments clean topped the list.

From this research, Dr. Aghi concluded that it is imperative to find a compelling, informational way to communicate the risks of bidis to those who have little or no knowledge of their health consequences. “My experience with the bidi smoking construction workers reaffirmed my belief that indeed everyone, no matter their background, is educable on health since it is so dear to everyone,” said Aghi.