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.