Something to Chew On

Cole Belling, Reporter

If you take a trip to Taiwan you will likely see locals chewing and spitting a red paste all over the place. The red substance they are chewing on is called Betel nut. Betel nut is an important part of Taiwanese culture, but many do not know the true nature of this sacred nut.

Betel nuts, while chewed by women and children, are extremely significant among middle-aged working men. It has an extremely heavy influence in a normal Taiwanese workspace as most people in a workspace chew to get through the long day. It is something that all of the workers can bond over and do together.

The Betel nut is described to provide a rush of energy that makes you feel better. Sound familiar? If that doesn’t sound like a drug maybe this does. Many people have gotten so hooked on the betel nut that they have to chew it more than a few times a day to feel happy and energized.

To top it all off, the oral cancer rates in Taiwan have increased dramatically supposedly due to an increase in the chewing of Betel nuts. Many people eat it in a sort of package known as a quid. One of the ingredients of these quids is slaked lime. The slaked lime causes hundreds of small abrasions to form in the mouth. These abrasions are thought to be a possible entry point for the cancer.

According to a recent study, about half of the men that chew don’t even know that it causes oral cancer. The severity of this situation, unbeknownst to many of the Taiwanese, has been growing in recent years and will continue to cause many to die if awareness is not raised. The Taiwanese government may never ban this as it is too ingrained into their culture. Even if they did ban them gangs would probably pop up to illegally deal betel nuts, this means it’s up to the people to quit this habit.