The addictive properties of betel nut, especially when combined with tobacco, are leading to the pervasive use of the chewed substance in the Marshall Islands.
Betel nut consumption appears to have increased rapidly among young Marshallese over the past 15 years, despite it not being grown there.
Correspondent Giff Johnson said most people have no idea about the negative impacts on their health.
But he said research unearthed at a recent meeting in Palau indicated growing rates of oral cancer related to betel nut chewing.
"Palau and the Northern Marianas where betel nut chewing is a long term multi-generational thing, if they're reporting skyrocketing levels of cancer, oral mouth cancers from it, well that's just what's going to be happening in the Marshall Islands very soon, if it's not already, you know, well under way," he said.
Giff Johnson said what little regulation there is in the Marshall Islands is not enforced by authorities and imported betel nut products are readily available.