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J Psychoactive Drugs. 2008 Sep;40(3):309-13.

Availability and characteristics of betel products in the U.S.

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Department of Psychology, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA 23298-0205, USA.


Betel use involves oral placement of shards of areca nut (Areca catechu palm seed containing the cholinergic agonist arecoline) wrapped with slaked lime in a betel leaf (Piper betle plant) or various chopped or powdered products containing areca nut and/or parts of the betel plant. Additives to this mixture include catechu (areca palm extract), spices/ sweeteners (e.g., saccharin, cloves), and/or tobacco. Betel use is most common in Asia and East India; however, little is known about the availability and characteristics of these products outside of this region. Thus, a representative sample of betel products and additives was purchased in the Richmond, Virginia area. Five venues were visited between March and May, 2006. Products successfully purchased were those containing betel alone (seven), betel/tobacco (three), tobacco alone (four), and additives (four). Most betel products listed ingredients on the packaging, though some did not explicitly distinguish between those with versus without tobacco. Importantly, seven of seven betel alone and one of three betel/tobacco products omitted any health-related warnings. All products were inexpensive and relatively obtainable in the groceries visited. More research is warranted in order to accurately estimate product emergence into the U.S. and other world markets, and the consequent impact on public health.

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