Before implementing its regulations, the Department of Commerce would first start educating the community on Public Law 19-65 or the law that prohibits the sale of areca nut (betel nut) to minors
Gov. Ralph DLG Torres signed PL 19-65, introduced by Rep. Lorenzo I. Deleon Guerrero (Ind-Saipan), last month.
Commerce Secretary Mark O. Rabauliman told Saipan Tribune that they would give the community enough time to adjust since it has only been close to three weeks since it became a law. “It was just recently signed, there still some time for everybody to kind of get adjusted to it.”
“What we’re doing right now is meeting the ABTC [Alcohol, Betel Nut, and Tobacco Control] director. We’re putting our heads together on how are we going to approach this in implementing the law,” Rabauliman added.
Dave Maratita is the ABTC director.
Rabauliman said that educating those who sell and consume betel nut is the first step. “[The] first school of thought would be on how we educate the folks that sell it and those who buy it. After that, we do outreach and education, then we go down to enforcement. Because promoting healthy living is the intent of the law.”
He added they plan to attend Parent-Teacher-Student Association meetings and other community events to inform the public of the new law. “We’re going to go out and let them know that there’s a new law in place and we’re asking the community’s assistance.”
Rabauliman said they would most likely use the system that’s already in place in regulating alcohol and tobacco when it comes to implementing the prohibition of selling betel nut to minors. “We’ll probably be mirroring on how we do alcohol and tobacco regulations.”
“I think we’re probably approach it like on how we are doing it with alcohol and tobacco. It is an upside down pyramid. We’re going to start off with the businesses, go down to the vendors, and the bottom is more of an outreach program in collaboration with the schools,” said Rabauliman.
The intention of the bill was to prevent minors from chewing betel nut after studies showed that it increases the risk of oral cancer, which is the third type of cancer that causes death in the CNMI. “[Gov. Ralph DLG] Torres and [Rep.] Deleon Guerrero had very good intentions after a study that came out where oral cancer is associated with betel nut.
“We’re going to push for the wellbeing of the youth. [DoC] would regulate or promulgate the regulations and enforcement of [PL 19-65]. We’ll be meeting with a team that we put together. It is not about punishing the people but informing and educating them.”
The Community Guidance Center would help DoC with its education and information campaigns. “We hope to do more outreach programs and information campaign. Educate them on the do’s and don’ts of the law.”