US bans bidis made by Indian tobacco company23 February 2014 AFP, Washington
US regulators Friday banned four types of small cigarettes known as bidis made by an Indian company, marking the Food and Drug Administration's first-ever oversight action against a tobacco product.
Bidis are small, hand-rolled cigarettes that contain tobacco wrapped in leaves from a tendu tree, and may come in various flavors.
US authorities say bidis contain levels of nicotine, tar and carbon monoxide several times greater than normal cigarettes.
The FDA move applies to four varieties made by Jash International, which a regulatory spokeswoman described to AFP as an Indian company with headquarters in Illinois.
The ban came about because the products were found to be substantially different from existing tobacco products on the market as of 2007, and did not meet new regulatory requirements, the FDA said.
"This means they can no longer be sold or distributed in interstate commerce or imported into the United States," the FDA said in a statement.
The order applies to Sutra Bidis Red, Sutra Bidis Menthol, Sutra Bidis Red Cone, and Sutra Bidis Menthol Cone.
Stores' existing inventory may be subject to seizure without further notice, the FDA said.
"Companies that continue to sell and distribute these products in the United States may be subject to enforcement actions by the FDA."
Asked for comment, a sales representative for Jash International told AFP a spokesperson would not be available until next week.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has warned that bidis contain higher levels of nicotine, tar and carbon monoxide than conventional cigarettes.
"Smoke from a bidi contains three to five times the amount of nicotine as a regular cigarette and places users at risk for nicotine addiction," said the CDC website.
Two percent of high school students and 1.7 percent of middle school students smoke bidis, according to a 2011 CDC survey.