Bougainville: Betel Nut Chewing
Everybody in Bougainville and Papua New Guinea chews Betel nuts – every man and every woman. In Bougainville, they grow everywhere and are about $0.12 per nut, it’s a palm nut of a palm endemic to Melanesia and Micronesia. The betel nut produces a narcotic effect similar to nicotine, however it is much more detrimental to health, as its very carcinogenic and has been undeniably linked to cancer. More the 70-80 percent of population end up with mouth cancer here. Not only severe mouth cavity cancers, but also lungs and stomach and prostate and cervix, plus tachycardia, hypertension, severe diabetes, kidney failure, lever failure, obesity, arrhythmia, hypothyroidism, asthma, infertility, T-cell depletion and immune failures, and finally a severe psychosis. It’s truly brutal and is slowly annihilating the entire population. The nut is sold everywhere along the roads, and every guide and driver and person I met here was chewing it nonstop, spitting the beyond disgusting blood-like saliva everywhere. All the ground and building walls here are covered with red spit. But wait, there’s more…. the nut is often not chewed alone! It’s combined with mustard seed and crushed seashells that are referred to as “lime”. Both mustard and lime and extremely abrasive to the gums and throat and cause bleeding wounds which in turn help absorb the toxins from the betel nut chewing faster. I had mental shivers just watching all this but sadly there’s nothing that anyone can or will do any time soon to change this.