Betel nut chewing in Taiwan (dissertation)
Christian Alan Anderson, "Betel nut chewing culture: The social and symbolic life of an Indigenous commodity in Taiwan and Hainan" (Ph.D. dissertation, University of Southern California, 2007).
Although betel nuts are Taiwan's No. 2 crop after rice, the government feels that the health hazard it presents outweighs any economic benefits.
The Taiwanese government's plan to curb cancer, though, faces tough opposition: about 60,000 women who sit in roadside glass booths, often wearing little more than a bikini, selling the nation's oldest legal drug. The so-called betel-nut beauties, who are unique to Taiwan, peddle the nation's second-largest crop to 17.5 percent of the adult male population, according to government estimates.
Chewing addictive betel nuts, the seed of the betel palm, increases the risk of mouth cancer, according to the Department of Health. Officials are encouraging farmers to plant alternatives to the US$359 million annual crop, urging about 1.6 million users to quit.
The Taipei Times reports.
Taiwan Battles Starbucks
Annie Huang's essay, entitled "Taiwan Battles Starbucks with Modernized Teahouses," in The New York Times (7 April 2002), can be found here.
Betel and Oral Cancer
For Science News, Diana Parsell reports on the link between oral cancer and betel chewing. She also notes that betel-chewing, while in decline in Thailand and Cambodia, is on the rise in Taiwan, India, Pakistan, and the United Kingdom. Here's her report, "Palm-Nut Problem: Asian Chewing Habit Linked to Oral Cancer," from page 43 of volume 167, number 3 (January 15, 2005).This and more betel nut links can be found at Boing Boing, which has taken an interest in the drug.