TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) said on Friday (Aug. 13) that since March, several Taiwanese travelers entering Turkey with betel nut have been arrested, reported CNA.
Betel nut, also known as “Taiwan’s chewing gum,” is illegal in Turkey because it contains the nicotinic stimulant arecoline. The travelers were arrested for importing drugs or stimulants and are currently in custody.
MOFA Spokesperson Joanne Ou (歐江安) said the Taiwan representative office in Turkey immediately contacted the individuals involved to offer assistance and will continue to follow the cases. The issue drew attention in Taiwan only after China’s consulate in Istanbul issued a statement reminding its citizens, “including Taiwanese compatriots,” not to bring betel nut into Turkey.
According to CNA, the story also raised the question of why Taiwanese citizens had visited Turkey “for leisure” during the COVID-19 outbreak in that country. Huang Chih-yang (黃志揚), Taiwan’s representative in Turkey, told CNA that while Turkey welcomes Taiwanese tourists, criminal activity may affect Taiwan’s image.
Betel nut is commonly chewed in Taiwan and is favored by the working class for its stimulating effect. However, it is also notorious for being addictive and a major cause of oral cancer.