Betel nut preparation
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Tackling Taiwan's betel nut habit

After nicotine, alcohol and caffeine, betel nuts are believed to be one of the most popular mind-altering substances in the world.

Found across Asia, the nuts are harvested from the Areca palm and are chewed for their warming effect and stimulating properties.

They are especially popular among working-age men, who chew to stay awake through long hours of driving, fishing or working on construction sites.

But the short-lived benefits come at a terrible cost.

High rates of oral cancer are destroying the lives of those who use betel nuts, often decades after their first taste.

Now the Taiwanese government is taking action to curb this centuries-old habit.

Cindy Sui reports from Taiwan.

  • 22 Mar 2015
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