Betel nut: City’s biggest challenge

Editorial

DESPITE Parliament passing the amended Summary Offences Act which prohibits selling, buying and chewing of betel nut, Port Moresby’s streets are stained by the blood red spittle that chewing produces and discarded husks clog the gutters.
It is already becoming an eye sore and a very unpleasant view to see red spittle over pavements, bitumen, flower gardens and everywhere.
The red spittle in fact has defaced these public infrastructures and if nothing is done to control it, the capital of PNG will soon be named the “Red City”.
Betel nut chewing involves chewing the palm tree nut mixed with lime powder and mustard, before the red-tinged remains are spat out.
It is going to be a mammoth task for city hall as they battle with ridding the city of betel nut stains and the filth that comes with it.
And that is the challenge the NCD Governor Powes Parkop has with his team.
Parkop imposed a ban on betel nut on Oct 1, 2013.
Many criticised the move saying that some people sustained their living by trading betel nut.
Some were arguing that the nut was part of our culture and should not be banned.
And as the law went into effect many realised the city was cleaner with officials enforcing the ban on selling betel nut and chewing it in public with the penalties.
The ban policy is beneficial for human and environment health as well as to formalise trading activities, instil good moral perception and remove free rider problem associated with cleaning up of trash.
The ban in a way helped corrected the wrong way of doing things, way of practicing in chewing and spitting of betel nut in public places.
After being re-elected as governor in 2017, Parkop vowed to continue the fight in cleaning out Port Moresby but stopped short of re-enforcing the betel but ban.
At the end of the day, it’s about (people) changing habits.
He instead introduced clean-up exercises with the intention of making people see the bad side of their spitting.
Under the amendment, offenders would be fined an amount not exceeding K10,000 and/or a jail term not exceeding three years.
Fines of up to K10,000 and jail terms of up to three years are the penalties for people who break the rules on the chewing of bete nut, smoking and using of spray paints in public places.
People always found a way around to beat the ban.
The habit of chewing has become both unhygienic and unsafe.
People must start practice good habits chewing habits – practice preventive health care.
Realistically, TB is making a comeback in our city, cancer is making a comeback in our city and most of them is airborne disease, passed through chewing of betel nut and spitting out here and there.
If chewers can take responsibility for their husk and spittle, then the action of enforcing a ban will not be necessary.
We agree with Parkop that Papua New Guineans need to develop a culture of respect, responsibility and appreciation of what is in the environment and value them.
Governor, most city residents want to change, however, it is only a few who are dragging everyone down.
They need to believe that a better future is possible.
That can become a reality in NCD.
There are some things that we must have zero-tolerance for, and if it means effecting the betel nut ban, so be it.
The law is there to prohibit the sale and chewing of betel nut in public places but the enforcement was and continues to be the biggest challenge.

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