/ Food & Drink, Health

Should chewing gum be banned?

It’s been 100 years since William J Wrigley started selling his chewing gum in the UK. Now, 725 million packets of Wrigley’s are chewed by Brits every year, but is it time we followed Singapore’s lead and banned it?

Chewing gum – the maintainer of healthy teeth and the patchwork of our streets. You’ll find it stuck under school seats and clinging to our feet, but could we bear to let its sticky mintiness go?

We’ve been chewing on gum for centuries, but it took until 1911 for Wrigley to bring its spearmint chewing gum from the States to the UK. Yet, considering the impact gum has made on the cleanliness of our high streets, is it time to spit it out (into a bin) for good?

A sticky situation

It costs around 3p to manufacturer a piece of gum, but over three times as much (10p) to clean it from our streets. Of course, not everyone is so deliberately careless to toss it on the ground, but this country still spends around £150 million a year to scrub it off.

And just to give you a sense of how much of it is on our pavements – 300,000 pieces of gum are estimated to be stubbornly stuck to London’s Oxford Street at any one time.

So maybe it’s about time for stringent action to be taken? They banned chewing gum in Singapore, and since 1992 the country’s streets have been spotlessly free from sticky splodges ever since.

If we were to follow Singapore’s lead, the biggest hit would be felt by good old Wrigley, as 90% of chewing gum sales in the UK are sold by this one brand alone.

In fact, Wrigley didn’t take Singapore’s ruling lying down – it pushed the matter onto the United States’ government agenda. In 2004, Singapore partially backed down, by allowing sugar-free gum to be sold as a medicinal aid that could only be sold in dentists and pharmacists. The names of those who are “prescribed” this gum are required to be recorded.

By gum, I like to chew

As for me, I’m a prolific chewer. You’ll very rarely find me without a pack of gum. I sometimes chew it to keep focussed, like soldiers during the First World War, but mostly I’ll whip out a stick to chew for the health of my teeth.

After meals, drinks, even snacks – my sugar-free gum helps my nashers stay food free, and it apparently helps strengthen my tooth enamel. In fact, I’m worried that I might be munching on too much of it, due to its supposed “laxative effects”. I shall say no more…

So, could I bear the thought of chewing gum being banned? As much as I’d love for our streets to be spotless like Singapore’s, I’m not sure. Even considering the fact that I’d be able to get a “prescription” from my dentist or pharmacist, I don’t like the thought of being on a “hand-out list”. It would make me sound like an addict who was compelled to attend Chewaholics Anonymous sessions.

However, I do think there needs to be a significant change in attitude from chewers. Why are people throwing their gum on the ground in the first place? Some have bits of paper from the packet to put their used gum into – and if not, I’m sure they could track down a bin. If you want to chew it, bin it.


Authoritarian state of Sp banned chewing gum much earlier than 1992… they don’t like long-haired guys either… subjected to compulsory scissor action on the spot in older days…dunno if they still do it. Acts of anti-social behaviour attract the most stringent of penalties, both civil and criminal,
including caning in more serious cases, and apply equally to foreigners.


Chewing gum was banned in Singapore some 15-20 years ago.
Hereunder is what a contact of mine there said in answer to a
question I put to him.

I don’t recall a single instance of this happening on the
London Tube as to jamming of train doors by chewed gum;
maybe the Tube users are a bit more ‘civilised’ or a better
-behaved lot.

Anything else you know about the chewing gum ban thing?

The rationale for the ban was that vandals were wreaking havoc
to the then newly-built MRT by sticking chewed gum onto the train doors
causing them to jam up and unable to close thereby causing
disruption to train operations. I think gum chewers were a small minority
of the population so there was no major hue and cry. Most people
accepted the government’s justification for banning it as most
were not affected. It was the foreign press that made a big deal out of
this issue.

Phil says:
23 October 2011

High time it was banned. It’s not just the sticky mess everywhere but people who try and talk to you with a mouthful of it.


I would like to see those who throw away chewing gum having to do community service for a week, and getting them to remove chewing gum from our streets would be an appropriate task. 🙂

I can’t remember when I last had chewing gum but the wrapper could be used to store the used gum if there was no bin handy.


I always swallow my chewing gum. It passes through the body at the same rate as other foods and causes no problems. However, some people have this weird idea that it will wrap round parts of the internals of the body and hang around for 7years and that’s why people began spitting it out.


Yes, I used to think swallowing chewing gum would get it stuck to my heart (I have no idea how it would have got here). And generally it seems to be OK to swallow it.

However, a word of warning – young kids could choke on chewing gum, and there are also some cases where people have so much chewing gum every day, that when they’ve swallowed it’s got stuck together in their intestines. I shall say no more…


A couple of good reasons not to chew more than one piece at a time.


It’s well known that it is not harmful to swallow chewing gum accidentally, but I have never heard of anyone doing this accidentally. I doubt that many people would follow your example but chewing gum that gradually dissolved with chewing could solve the sticky litter problem.


Oops – I mean that I have never heard of anyone swallowing chewing gum intentionally.

Phil says:
24 October 2011

When I was a child we believed that if you swallowed chewing gum or bubble gum it would find it’s way through your system, block your heart and kill you. Perhaps this old wives tale still lingers in the sub-conscience of most chewers.

Alan says:
24 October 2011

Simple answer put a tax on all packets 5p a piece and share it out for councils to use to clean up the mess, means cleaner streets at lower council tax!


It’s an interesting idea, but isn’t necessarily new. They’ve talking about this for years: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/4286363.stm But I don’t think anything has actually been done. In fact, I’ve just spotted an e-petition for this very idea – it asks for a 30% tax on chewing gum sales: http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/805

So we appear to have three choices – education, tax, or a ban?


It seems a little unfair that people who are responsible have to pay to remedy the problem created by careless people, but at the moment people who don’t even buy gum are paying – through taxes.

Martin says: