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Lawmakers cite public health concerns

HONOLULU (Pacific Islands Report, March 3, 2010) – The Marshall Islands have banned the importation and sale of betel nuts in the country citing public health concerns.

According to the Marshall Islands Journal, the Nitijela (legislature) last week approved a bill banning the widely-used stimulant, which is chewed, causing the user to spit a reddish residue. The lawmakers noted the defacing of public property along with concerns that the spitting might transmit diseases.

The new law makes it a crime to import, distribute or sell betel nut in the Marshalls, backed by a fine of up to $100 and 30 days in jail.

The chewing of betel nut, which has a mild effect similar to coffee, has traditional underpinnings throughout Micronesia.

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