Betel, Tobacco and Beverages in Southeast Asia

  • William Gervase Clarence-Smith


There remains a historical puzzle concerning the sudden collapse in the popularity of betel chewing in Southeast Asia. A custom that was addictive, and that had become deeply entrenched in local culture over millennia, all but vanished with remarkable speed. This chapter focuses on the changing social and cultural attitudes that can lead to sudden alterations in tastes. It explores the intimately intertwined roles of religion, tobacco and hot beverages, namely tea, coffee and chocolate (cocoa), from around the sixteenth century. While cigarettes were beneficiaries of the decline of betel, this was true mainly of masculine consumption. For women, hot beverages were better placed than tobacco to substitute for betel. With such beverages popularized by world religions, secular reformers were in a better position to launch campaigns against betel.


South East Asia Stimulants Betel Tobacco Tea Coffee Chocolate 


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© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • William Gervase Clarence-Smith
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS)University of LondonLondonUK

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