AN AREA at the newly refurbished Koki Market in Port Moresby will be set aside for the sale, and chewing, of betel nut as the local administration moves away from a ban.
While popular across Asia and the Asia Pacific for its stimulant properties, betel nut is known to cause oral cancers and gum disease, as well as the bright red betel-juice stains left by chewers spitting the cud of the nut, mustard fruit and lime powder onto streets.
A partial ban on the sale of the nut in Port Moresby came into effect in October 2013 and was fully implemented by 1 January 2014, but by the end of that year support for the measure had faded.
National Capital District governor Powes Parkop, who instigated the ban, has now moved to implement a licensing system, requiring sellers to remain in a set location and to pay a fee for the right to sell betel nut, also known as buai.
Some of these sellers will be in the newly dedicated area at the refurbished markets, with Prime Minster Peter O’Neill saying at the markets opening that this was the first of many such locations.
“We will start off in Koki, and then when we start building Gordons, in Hohola and Gerehu and Waigani,” Mr O’Neill said.
The dedicated chewing area would have a tiled floor, meaning that there would be no spitting in the dirt, which Mr O’Neill said encouraged the spread of disease.
“Also we will be declaring that you can chew buai at your own residence, but buai chewing in public areas will be banned,” he said.
“It is the same approach like with smoking in public areas, because nobody wants to catch cancer from someone else’s smoke and nobody wants to catch TB because you are chewing betel nut.”
Mr O’Neill urged the community to get behind the latest initiative and to understand why the decision had been made.
“It is for our benefit so let us try and work to improve the atmosphere where people can chew buai, and we also don’t stop communities from gaining and income from buai markets.”
Mr O’Neill said the government would provide further support for the K2.5 million buai market, in addition to the k5 million it had already allocated through its market program.
“So it is a good initiative of NCDC and the Member for Moresby South. This is something that we should look at developing through all the other markets of the country,” he said.