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Betel-nut beauties

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.

Posted by Cynthia on January 31, 2006 at 10:57 AM in Betel, Taiwan | Permalink