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That’s disgusting!

For many people, there are few things quite as disgusting as seeing someone spit in public. As a visual and auditory experience it’s a double whammy of distastefulness. Encountering a fresh deposit of sputum on a sidewalk or other public space is nearly as bad.

Many cities have ancient laws in place that prohibit public spitting, dating back to a time when preventing the spread of tuberculosis was high on the public health radar. Now that TB is a relatively uncommon occurrence, the enforcement of spitting laws has shrunk proportionately.

If defacing public spaces with litter or graffiti is punishable, why should spitting be any different? It creates a public eyesore, and is a far more nauseating addition to public places than an empty soda can or a bit of spray paint. It’s a more dangerous one as well. While urban graffiti is certainly a nuisance in its own way, it will never cause the spread of disease.

Tuberculosis may no longer be public health enemy number one, but the fact that spitting has ever been connected with the spread of a deadly disease should be enough to give people pause. This was not simply a weak connection made by health officials 100 years ago. According to an article by Alifiya Khan at Daily News and Analysis, spitting still contributes to the present-day spread of TB in densely populated places like Mumbai, India.

Yet in spite of its unsanitary nature, spitting continues. Scientific evidence shows that spitting has been a recreational activity of choice for some human beings for thousands of years, suggesting some biological or widespread sociological mandate that compels some people – mostly men – to be so generous with their saliva. If you watch sports on TV, you’ll see baseball and hockey players, in particular, continuously expectorating.

Sally’s Trove polled their readers in search of an answer, and found that most male respondents claimed a need to spit out of necessity. This may be understandable in certain circumstances, such as when one is suffering from a cold or other illness. Most times, however, this  “need to spit” is highly suspect. Would it be so very difficult to confine such behaviour to the privacy of your home?

Regardless of why the need to spit arises, discharging sputum loudly in the vicinity of others, or onto a sidewalk or bench where it is likely to come in contact with another member of the public, is inexcusable. If you are sick, carry a handkerchief with you!

And if you don’t, here’s hoping that, in the near future, public spitting will be punishable with more than a series of dirty looks.


Until next time,

Peace, love and vitamin C!



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