Photographer's Note

A beedi is a thin, South Asian cigarette filled with tobacco flake and wrapped in a tendu leaf tied with a string at one end. The word comes from beeda, Marwari for a leaf wrapped in betel nuts, herbs, and condiments. A traditional method of tobacco use throughout South Asia and parts of the Middle East, today beedies are popular and inexpensive in India. There, beedi consumption outpaces that of conventional cigarettes although these tobacco-filled leaves deliver more nicotine, carbon monoxide and tar and carry a greater risk of oral cancers. Beedies accounted for 48% of Indian tobacco consumption in 2008. Like all tobacco use, beedis increase the risk of certain kinds of cancers, heart disease and lung disease. Indian tobacco cultivation began in the late 17th century, and beedies were first created when tobacco workers took left over tobacco and rolled it in leaves. The commercial Indian beedi industry saw rapid growth during the 1930s probably driven by an expansion of tobacco cultivation at the time but also helped by Gandhi's support of Indian industry and Indian products. Perhaps due to this, educated classes in India grew to prefer beedies over cigarettes although this is no longer the case. Muslim leaders, calling cigarettes foreign products, have also endorsed beedies over cigarettes at times. By the middle of the 20th century beedi manufacture had grown into a highly competitive industry. This stage of commercial production—at the height of the beedi's popularity[citation needed]—saw the creation of many new beedi brands as well as beedi factories employing upwards of one hundred, primarily male, beedi rollers. Factory-based beedi production declined as a result of increased regulation during the 1940s, '50s and '60s and beedi-making became a cottage industry with a home-based women workforce predominantly employed only in the beedi rolling. In contrast, males continue to be employed in all aspects of beedi production.

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Additional Photos by Valter Palone (bayno) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 1350 W: 297 N: 2584] (18344)
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