When completing the Smoking section of an insurance application, clients almost always pause at the end and ask “What’s a Betel nut?” Seeing it listed alongside well-known and mostly-understood health risks like cigarettes and chewing tobacco adds to the mystery. Odds are, if you don’t know what it is, you probably aren’t regularly chewing it, so from an insurance perspective it’s not likely to be an issue for you, but I thought I’d share a quick explanation I received from Quality Underwriting Services for the curious.
- When the betel/paan leaf is chewed in combination with the areca nut, it’s called a “betel quid”.
- A paan leaf is smeared with lime paste then packed with thin slices of boiled areca nut and spices. Usually tobacco is added.
- It is rolled into a quid then chewed until it reddens the mouth.
Health effects of betel quid
- It is a stimulant:
- In low doses, the effect is similar to caffeine and nicotine.
- In higher doses, it produces cocaine-like effects.
- ￼￼It is as addictive as chewing tobacco.
- When tobacco is added, users are 5 times more likely to develop mouth cancer.
- Lime is very corrosive and can damage mouth tissue, increasing the chance of mouth cancer.
- Because it suppresses appetite it can lead to digestive problems, including gastric ulcers.
How do insurance underwriters view betel quid?
- Underwriters classify betal quid chewers as smokers.