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About Ellen F. Rosenblum
Attorney General Hardy Myers today urged federal officials and Congress to take action to stop the importation of hand-rolled cigarettes produced primarily in India. The cigarettes, called bidis, are an even greater health risk than traditional cigarettes and are flavored to make them attractive to children.
"Unlike those intended for the Indian market, bidis intended for the American market are flavored to taste like strawberry, chocolate, mandarin orange, clove, mint, cinnamon, licorice and other flavors," Myers said. "Studies show that bidi smokers have two times the risk of lung cancer than those who smoke Indian filtered cigarettes and five times the risk of suffering heart disease than non-smokers."
Bidis contain more than three times the amount of nicotine and more than five times the amount of tar than regular cigarette smoke. They also require greater pulmonary effort to smoke due to their shape and poor combustibility. Consequently, bidi smokers breathe in greater quantities of tar and other toxins than smokers of regular cigarettes.
Bidis are readily available at most smoke shops, gas stations and liquor stores, but they may also be purchased through the Internet. Reports by the National Association of Attorneys General indicate that sting operations show most on-line sellers did nothing to verify the ages of the undercover minors before selling them the cigarettes. The children who participated in the undercover buys in several states ranged in age from nine to seventeen years.
Myers joined Attorneys General from all 50 states in signing letters to federal agencies and Congress urging them to take action. The letters further indicate their intent to do "whatever we can" to stop the sale of bidis to minors in their individual states.
"I intend to continue my efforts to restrict access to tobacco products by minors," Myers said. "I find it outrageous and tragic that one in four Oregon teens smokes regularly. I believe government regulatory agencies and businesses must work together to reduce youth access to tobacco."
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