over Beeda and Babul
By Rukshana Rizwie
With the recent crackdown on betel leaf and
arecanut products sold to students in and around
schools, comes a new warning.
They are potentially harmful because it increases
the probability of developing oral cancer, according
to the Ministry of Health.
Dr Jayasundara Bandara, director-general of the oral
health unit, speaking to The Nation asserted that
betel leaf and arecanut products are known to have
chemicals that can spur the growth of oral cancer.
“Traditionally we all knew that tobacco was harmful
to health and can potentially cause cancer. However
lately even the World Health Organisation has cited
that arecanut also has similar chemicals that are
harmful to health,” he said.
“Arecanut and betel leaf products such as Beeda
and Babul have added addictives, preservatives and
sweeteners which makes it all the more tempting for
children who try it, but all of this combined has a
lethal effect on a child chewing it, increasing his
chances of developing oral cancer by as much as 10
Dr Banadara said the Narcotics Bureau at the police
department when launched a campaign to crack down on
these products could not isolate the specific
product within the known items.
“For police to go to courts for legal action, if
there is an item listed, they can get it banned, but
when it’s a chemical that’s dangerous which has been
added to the items, it’s much harder to crackdown,”
The doctor explained that frequent use of these
products can cause sub fibrosis.
“Frequent chewers of these products develop fiber
bands under the skin in their mouth, and after time,
it becomes difficult for them to open their mouth
making the skin and lips rough and appear bruised in
colour,” he said.
“This has a high tendency to turn into oral
cancer. One of our researches who surveyed children
in schools here found out that children as young as
13 years of age were already started to develop sub
fibrosis, which is unusual and uncommon, because it
is usually known to develop in adults over the age
Dr Bandara cited that parents should be more
vigilant of the habits of their children and ensure
that they do not fall prey to the use of such
“Unlike chewing betel leaves, there’s not sign when
a child uses an Arecanut product, it doesn’t not
produce a colour or pungent smell, so it’s hard to
detect. Hence parents should tell their children to
be vary of Arecanut products sold in colorful
packets outside their schools and at street
corners,” he said.
“This is a silent killer and based on the evidences
that we’ve already seen children developing sub
fibrosis at an age as early as 13, this should be an
eye opener to all.”