Along the streets and highways in Taiwan — especially in the cities’ outskirts and in the countryside — are neon-lit booths with scantily clad “betel nut beauties.”
Women like Ling Ling serve customers betel nut, an addictive snack that is hugely popular in Taiwan.
Often wrapped in betel leaves, or paan, and chewed like a large fibrous chewing-gum, the betel nut gives a buzz on a par with several shots of espresso or, some say, amphetamine.
It’s not just popular in Taiwan. Betel nut is also chewed in India, Myanmar, parts of China and Papua New Guinea, making it the world’s fourth most commonly used psychoactive substance after tobacco, alcohol and caffeinated drinks.
Other countries are also trying to curb the habit. In Myanmar, the government has ordered all employees not to chew betel during office hours and has started a campaign to remove betel vendors from public places, including those popular with tourists. (CNN)