CDC HIV/AIDS/Viral Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News UpdateNEW GUINEA: Spitting Betel Nuts ‘Spreading Tuberculosis'
November 2, 2012
The Telegraph (London) (10.31.12)
The newly-elected government of New Guinea wants to ban the habit of chewing betel nuts from the streets of Papua New Guinea, to prevent the spread of tuberculosis. The habit of chewing the small palm tree nut mixed with lime powder and mustard and spitting it out on the floor or ground is almost a national pastime. The mixture is a mild stimulant. Health experts have warned the government that the spittle is unhygienic and has led to rising rates of airborne disease. Powes Parkop, governor of Port Moresby, has been advocating for the ban for years as he believes the betel nut habit is unhygienic and unsafe. Minister for Environment and Conservation John Punari stated that the habit will have to be banned and that the government will have to legislate and force the legislation to ban betel nut chewing. One of the difficulties in banning betel nut chewing is its popularity and its contribution to the economy as thousands of people in New Guinea make a living from growing betel nuts and selling them on the streets of the capital and larger towns.