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Wednesday, June 28, 2017

What's with Ohio Legislature's Betel Nut Crusade?

Photo from WOIO Channel 19 in Cleveland
Lost among the hundreds of budget amendments considered by the Ohio General Assembly today is something probably no one will discuss -- a provision that bans Betel Nuts from use on school or Education Service Center (ESC) grounds. The provision, which was inserted into the Senate's version of the budget a couple weeks ago, originally called for schools to develop policies for enforcement of this provision, as well as penalties for students who use them.

That enforcement requirement was removed from the final version of the budget, perhaps a recognition that asking for increased Betel Nut enforcement at a time when the same budget is cutting school districts by $896 million over the budget passed during the Great Recession, adjusted for inflation, is heavy handed.

But what gives with Betel Nuts?

I looked them up online. They're a wildly popular nut from Southeast Asia that is known to create the same sort of buzz as nicotine or caffeine. Like all things you leave in your mouth for extended periods, they are known to cause oral cancers and disease. And, interestingly, it appears Asian women prefer them to tobacco or cigarettes.

So in Asia, there's a lot of concern over these nuts, and rightfully so.

But outside of a few sensationalistic local TV news stories about Ohio authorities warning about Betel Nut danger, I couldn't find a single incident of Betel Nuts being used in Ohio schools.

As Channel 19 reported in Cleveland: "Cleveland 19 checked with Cleveland and Akron Police Departments and they did not know of any local cases. The Cuyahoga County Board of Health tells us they have heard of it, but “there is no evidence of local activity.""

Except for one.

A group of teens were found to be using them in Reynoldsburg a few months back. The description used by police?

The students were "visibly off balance."

We would join California, apparently, as the only states in the country to ban the nut from school grounds.

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