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Taiwan's 'betel nut beauties' drum up business,
 
 
 
 
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"There used to be a lot more betel nut girls," a seller in the city of Gueijen says between trips to the curb, dressed in a tiny black bikini with a gold belt. "But two years ago the police started cracking down on us for wearing too little."

Health concerns have also grown: Oral cancer cases in Taiwan rose to 4,750 in 2004 from 1,790 in 1994, an increase the government blames on betel nut use. A study by the World Health Organization in 2003 linking betel nut use to cancer prompted island health officials to campaign against its use and call for health warnings on packages. Today, some bags have warnings, but because distributors do their own packaging, the rule is not always enforced.

Beyond the health considerations, social critics complain about moral implications.

"There's an element of treating women like toys," says Wang Julu, a sociologist at National Tsing Hua University.
 
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