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September 26, 2017

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Taipei City anti-betelnut drive helps addicts quit

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- An anti-betelnut program launched by Taipei City in late May helped 91 out of 153 betel nut addicts kick their habit, marking a 60 percent success rate, a local health official said yesterday.

The program included holding the first ever betel nut withdrawal classes in the city's 12 districts in May. Each the 153 addicts who participated spent eight hours taking the classes that lasted for about three months, the official told reporters.

A participant identified by his last name Lin, who ended his addiction to betel nuts, said he chewed about 30-50 betel nuts a day before quitting.

One of Lin's colleagues in Taipei City's cleaning squad in which Lin worked temporarily early this year, "forced" him to take the classes, worrying that Lin's betel-nut affected mouth would hinder his social life, according to Lin.

Lin ran a betel nut kiosk for more than 10 years before his temporary job in the squad. After kicking the habit, Lin said he started selling Taiwanese cold noodles, earning a quite good income of about NT$7,000 (US$209)-NT$8,000 each day.

Those who have successfully given up chewing betel nuts will be able to save about NT$10,000 - money they would have used to buy Taiwan-grown products, according to Lee Ming-hsien, a professor at National Dong Hwa University, who was commissioned by the Taipei city government to hold the classes.

Betel nut chewing damages the mouth and causes oral cancer, which is the fourth top killer for men in Taiwan, said Chen Li-kai, director-general of Taipei City Hospital's Dentistry Department.

Chen pointed out that most betel nut addicts are men between the ages of 30 and 50, with many being their family's main breadwinner.

To help prevent oral cancer, the government is providing free oral cancer screenings to people age 18 or older at several branches of Taipei City Hospital this month, the official added.

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