Some studies indicate that betel quid and its ingredients chewing can produce cell mutagenicity and tumorigenicity. In Taiwan studies, betel quid chewing is the main cause of submucous fibrosis and oral cancer. Understanding the distribution and characteristics of the areca nut chewing population is one of the first steps in the effort to prevent these oral diseases. A stratified cluster random sample of 2442 junior high school students in Changhua county, Taiwan, were surveyed for the habit of areca nut chewing. Significantly more male students chewed areca nut than female students (9.2% vs 0.9%). The proportion of students who were chewing areca nuts increased with increasing (seventh to ninth) grades. Areca nut was used by junior high school students at a higher rate in village (rural) areas as compared to town (semi-urban) and city (urban) areas (6.4%, 3.7% and 3.0%, respectively). More students in the ordinary achievement classes were chewing areca nuts than those in the high achievement classes (8.4% vs 1.6%). Areca nut chewing students tended to have users in their families. Cigarette smoking and alcohol drinking were positively associated with areca nut chewing. More than half (53.6%) of the areca nut chewing students first experimented with this habit with a family member, most often the father or grandfather.