The last betel post

About the new Myanmar government betel campaign I wrote a few days ago:

This is a good start but does not go near far enough. Half measures avail us nothing. If there is evidence of harm from betel chewing then a well thought-out and comprehensive national plan to decrease consumption is needed


And I received the following comment from Bernard Cordes:

I disagree with your statement that half measures avail us nothing in the control of betel chewing in Myanmar.

If the US had started to stop tobacco smoking with a comprehensive plan to eliminate use of tobacco, Big Tobacco would have moved in more forcefully than it did to prevent any action to decrease the harm done by smoking tobacco. It started here (Santa Cruz, CA, US) with 'smoke free' sections of restaurants. Now, there are few public places to smoke tobacco and those few are outdoors.

It is now not acceptable among the various groups in Santa Cruz to smoke cigarettes. I realise that SC is not CA, CA is not US and US is not the world. In changing habits, total bans based on adopted plans, may impede any movement.

I think the principles of Harm Reduction should apply to betel use as it does to tobacco use; the perfect being the enemy of the good.

Bernie Cordes


And the following from Elliot Prasse-Freeman:

I disagree with [him]'s assessment, at least until we further consider the corresponding health and social ramifications of immediate banning of betel. The betel economy - both production and distribution - is highly decentralized and the number of affected people will be vast. If we trust that the government through this state can compensate these people for their eliminated livelihoods then we can proceed w a plan for decreased consumption on health related grounds (banning substances to which people are addicted rarely works out well, which HIM is good to always remind us).  But if we remain skeptical then we must consider the health consequences of people losing their ways of making a living.

Elliot Prasse-Freeman


Jamie again:

I realise that I overstated my view when I paraphrased a quote from a book: "half measures availed us nothing". Keeping sales of betel far from schools may decrease consumption and prevent young people taking up betel chewing. And that is something.

I did not and do not recommend prohibition of betel. M recommendation was a "comprehensive national plan to decrease consumption". And of course harm reduction above all. Do any readers have examples of successful harm reduction for betel chewers?


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