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SUVA, Fiji Islands (May 6, 1999 – PACNEWS)---A report presented at a National Drugs and Substance Abuse conference in Fiji this week has highlighted concerns Fiji’s chiefs have over the abuse of the traditional drink yaqona, or kava.

Sereima Nasilisili of the University of the South Pacific said Fijian chiefs say there now is a "no care attitude" towards the traditional drink.

This is reflected in the use of plastic basins to replace the "tanoa" and enamel bowls instead of the coconut bilo (cup) for serving the drink, she said.

"The relaxation of yaqona rules are believed to lower the dignity once associated with tradition, as accessibility to the drink is open to all instead of the elite defined by traditional society," she said.

"While yaqona drinking in traditional society was generally controlled by chiefs limiting the drink to certain social elite groups only, accessibility of the drink is now determined by who can buy the yaqona," Nasilisili added.

Kava is sold from homes, in the market places and in special kava saloons in towns and therefore is open to anyone who has money to buy it, her report noted.

"More people are using the drink as a means of relaxing and escaping the frustrations of life," Nasilisili said

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