Well, there's a time and place for everything, and today I found myself smoking bidis for the first time. Interesting taste, but I'd much rather stick with the cigarettes or cloves (kreteks).

Bidis are small brown hand-rolled cigarettes from India that appear in a variety of flavors ranging from Vanilla to Root Beer to Watermelon. Bidis contain tobacco flakes which are hand-rolled (usually in unsanitary conditions, but that's another story) with a greenish-brown leaf. The leaf is usually a tendu or temburni leaf, which has low combustibility, so smokers tend to inhale more deeply and more often when they smoke bidis in order to keep them lit. The bidi is tapered at both ends (making it hard at first to decide which end to light) and tied on the "filter" side with a tiny thread. Although the package labels the bidis as "Class 'A' Filter Cigarettes," they are far from it. The "filters" are usually just a small piece of cotton which is soaked with resin after a few drags.

According to a recent study in Massachusetts, one bidi produces three times the amount of carbon monoxide, five times the amount of tar and three times the amount of nicotine as a typical U.S. cigarette. Bidis cost about $2.50 a pack (20 bidis). The most popular (perhaps only) brand of bidis are Darshans and I've found them to be readily available at most smoke shops.

Of course, "Underage Sale is Prohbited."

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