4 Feb 2009

WHO restates risks of chewing betelnut as PNG ban is flouted

2:42 pm on 4 February 2009

The World Health Organisation is warning consumers to stop chewing betelnut, as many studies indicate that it is a major cause of oral cancer and a health hazard.

A WHO spokesperson in Papua New Guinea, Dr Eigil Sorensen, says children who chew betelnut are increasing the risk of developing cancer of the mouth in adult life, among other health complications.

He says changing people's habits, particularly at a young age, is crucial.

"There are clear evidence that betelnut increases the risk of mouth cancer. Several studies have actually shown this. We also know that if betelnut are combined with tobacco smoking it also enhances the risk significantly for cardiovascular disease. So [for] betelnut, the health hazards are very obvious."

Dr Sorensen says problems include the easy availability of the cash crop and it being a livelihood for so many vendors.

He commends the Governor of the National Capital District for imposing a ban this year on vendors selling betelnut in public places.