Tobacco consumption and the poor

an ethnographic analysis of hand-rolled cigarette (bidi) use in Bangladesh

Anupom Roy*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

4 Citations (Scopus)


Bidis, or hand-rolled, filterless tobacco cigarettes, are largely marketed to and consumed by the poor in Bangladesh. In exploring perceived rationales and the situational contexts of smoking, this study identifies the crucial connections between bidi smoking and the social and economic forces that influence choices and shape the contexts of individual suffering. Ethnographic research in Netrakona District revealed that inexpensive bidis were used to gain relief from physical ailments specific to the poor, such as hunger, indigestion and constipation. Bidis were found to be a socially accepted mood-altering drug that symbolizes relief from their everyday tensions, angers, perceived exploitations and disappointments. I argue that both cultural norms of reciprocity and hierarchy as well as the socio-economic structure of Bangladesh with its inequality, poverty and exploitation contribute to the tobacco consumption and related health problems of the poor.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)162-188
Number of pages27
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • Bangladesh
  • beedi
  • bidi
  • hand-rolled cigarette
  • poverty
  • smoking
  • South Asia
  • structural inequality
  • tobacco

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Tobacco consumption and the poor: an ethnographic analysis of hand-rolled cigarette (bidi) use in Bangladesh'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this