Sirisena recommends less harmful chew of betel


By Don Asoka Wijewardena

In a bid to prevent oral cancer the health Ministry has introduced a new chew of betel. It contains nutmeg, mace, cardamom and clove instead of the traditional staple of lime, arecanut and tobacco.

Health Minister Maithripala Sirisena revealed that offering a chew of betel containing lime, arecanut and tobacco had caused more harm than good to the Maha Sangha during alms giving and pirith chanting ceremonies etc. Many monks had developed oral cancer as a result of chewing betel with such ingredients, he said.

The Health Minister pointed out that even many adults, including bus drivers, were in the habit of chewing betel with lime, arecanut and tobacco, especially to keep themselves alert. Those who consumed five chews of betel per day were liable to contract oral and intestinal cancers, because arecanut contained harmful substances which could cause cancer.

Even lime and tobacco were potential factors for causing cancer, the Health Minister said.

Traditional medicinal ingredients such as nutmeg, mace, cardamom and clove would not pose any health threat and, therefore, he had decided to introduce such native ingredients to prevent oral cancer among the people and the Buddhist clergy, he said.

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