AUSTRALIA BANS COMMERCIAL KAVA IMPORTS

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MELBOURNE, Australia (Radio Australia, June 29) – The Australian government is trying to stamp out kava abuse in Indigenous communities, by cracking down on the importation of the substance.

It is particularly prevalent in communities in far north Australia.

All licenses to sell kava will be revoked in three months.

But adults will be allowed to bring up to two kilograms of the substance in recognition of its traditional cultural use for Pacific Islanders.

The Health Minister, Tony Abbott, says kava is a serious social problem.

"Individuals can import a very small amount of kava for traditional purposes, but tradeable quantities will no longer be brought into this country," he said.

The sole wholesaler of kava in Australia's Northern Territory says the substance isn't as damaging as alcohol and tobacco and shouldn't be banned.

Lanaphuy homelands chief executive in the Territory, Rick Norton, was speaking following the imposition of a federal government ban on the import of commercial quantities of kava.

Mr Norton says people will use other, more damaging substances when kava is no longer available.

"We know that tobacco is extremely damaging, we know that soft drinks and high fat foods are extremely damaging," he said. "Communities are suffering from heart disease, diabetes, lung disease (and) I would really challenge the minister to produce some evidence of hospital admissions of kava."

Under the ban, adults will still be allowed to bring a limited amount of kava into Australia in recognition of its cultural importance to Pacific Islanders.

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