The Market for Bidis, Smokeless Tobacco, and Cigarettes in India: Evidence From Semi-Urban and Rural Areas in Five States

Int J Public Health. 2021 May 12;66:1604005. doi: 10.3389/ijph.2021.1604005. eCollection 2021.


Objectives: Compare the brand availability, pricing and presence of illicit products in semi-urban and rural areas in India across product types and states. Methods: In late 2017, 382 unique tobacco products were purchased from localities with populations under 50,000 in the states of Assam, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, and Uttar Pradesh. Brand, printed maximum retail price, price paid, tax, and health warning labels (HWLs) were used to compare the market for bidis, smokeless tobacco (SLT), and cigarettes. Results: Brand availability and pricing of SLT products was similar to cigarettes. Brand availability and pricing of bidis was consistent with having many small producers. Bidis and single serving SLT with spice mixtures were more affordable than cigarettes and SLT sold alone. 2% of SLT and 10% of cigarettes did not feature an India HWL. Conclusion: The elimination of single serving SLT packets and the removal of tax exemptions for small producers, often exploited by bidi producers, could reduce their respective affordability. State differences in illegal and illicit products could indicate a greater need for enforcement in some states.

Keywords: LMICs; global health; illegal tobacco products; price; taxation.

MeSH terms

  • Commerce* / statistics & numerical data
  • Costs and Cost Analysis
  • Humans
  • India
  • Rural Population
  • Tobacco Products* / economics
  • Tobacco, Smokeless* / economics
  • Urban Population