Vice Squad
Wednesday, June 13, 2007
Betel Nuts in Taiwan

There's a world health promotion conference currently underway in Vancouver. According to this article in the Vancouver Sun, one of the topics that is being addressed is the consumption of betel nuts, especially in Taiwan. Betel nut chewing, which has a stimulative effect, is a popular activity throughout much of Asia; in Forces of Habit, David Courtwright suggests (page 54) that "Something like a tenth of the world's population now indulges in the practice." But Taiwan has developed its own method of distributing betel: roadside booths staffed by underdressed betel nut beauties. And the health effects of betel nut consumption can be severe, as the Vancouver Sun article notes:
The nuts [in Taiwan] are sold at roadside kiosks by scantily clad women and chewing them is a major reason why oral cancers are the third most common cancer (after lung and liver) in that country. In Canada, by comparison, oral cancer ranks ninth in men and 15th in women.
This shocking method of delivering betel nuts -- employing attractive women in revealing clothes inside roadside booths -- would never be used to peddle a psychoactive substance in the good ol' USA.

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