• Vol. 33 No. 4 (Suppl), 31S–36S
  • 31 July 2004

Epidemiology of Betel Quid Usage



Betel quid chewing is an ancient practice common in many countries of Asia and among migrated communities in Africa, Europe and North America. It enjoys complete social acceptance in many societies and is also popular among women. In its most basic form, betel quid consists of betel leaf (Piper betel), areca nut, the main psychoactive ingredient, and slaked lime (calcium hydroxide). Areca nut is said to be the fourth most commonly used psychoactive substance in the world, after caffeine, nicotine and alcohol. There are a great variety of ingredients and ways of preparing betel quid in different countries. In some, particularly in India, tobacco is added to the quid. In recent years, commercially-manufactured non-perishable forms of betel quid (pan masala or betel quid mixtures and gutka), not containing betel leaf, have been marketed. Within a short period of about 2 decades, this industry has risen in value to several hundred US million dollars. Use of areca nut in any form is not safe for oral health; the use of commercially manufactured forms seems even riskier.

Betel quid/areca nut use has been common in South and Southeast Asia and the Asia Pacific region for a long time and is common among migrated communities in Africa, Europe and North America. Because of its ancient history, its use is socially acceptable among all sections of society, including women and quite often, children.

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