16 Jul 2007

Campaign underway to reduce use of betel nuts

10:16 am on 16 July 2007

The Secretariat of the Pacific Community is recommending that public health education programmes on the effects of chewing betel nuts, be developed in the Pacific.

The recommendation is included in a draft report currently being reviewed by the World Health Organisation.

Chewing betel nuts, often mixed with tobacco, is popular in countries like Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands, and gives the user a mild euphoric effect but can also cause adverse health effects.

The tobacco and alcohol advisor at the SPC, Jeanie McKenzie says much more could be done in the area of public health education.

"I think people perhaps don't understand how serious some of those conditions can be, in terms of oral cancer that would probably be one of our primary concerns. There's other effects, tooth discoloration, cardiovascular effects, issues about dependency and addiction to betel nut."

Jeanie McKenzie says there's also evidence that suggests people are starting to chew the nut from a younger age.