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By Bernadette H. Carreon

KOROR, Palau (August 29, 2001 - Palau Horizon/PINA Nius Online)---Chewing betel nut without tobacco does not make you less of a Palauan.

This was the reminder of Public Health Director Caleb Otto to those who continue to chew betel nut with tobacco, which the bureau says sets a bad example for the country’s youth.

According to Valerie Whipps, Program Manager for Tobacco Control, chewing betel nut is supposed to be some sort of form of rite of passage on the way to becoming adults. But "let us go back to the real practice," Whipps said. Traditionally children and young adults did not chew betel nuts, especially with tobacco, she added.

Whipps and Otto reminded the public of the risks that chewing betel nuts with tobacco pose to one's health. Chewing betel nut -- even without tobacco -- exposes an individual to oral cancer.

The adults' practice of chewing betel nut with tobacco has been emulated by children and young adults, raising the prevalence of tobacco use in non-smoking form among children as young as 11 years old, Otto said.

The government's goal is to stop children from chewing betel nut with tobacco or even to stop them from chewing at all, Whipps said.

Adults, for their part, are encouraged to chew without tobacco.

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: 

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