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Surprising Science

Stop Spitting, Save the World?

When it comes to improving overall quality of life, few people pay much attention to the simplest of social graces. Sure, there are plenty of annoying, rude gestures plaguing practically every region on the planet, but spitting in public has suddenly come under fire for a variety of reasons. So what are the greater ramifications for mankind if we somehow eliminate spitting?

The war on spitting has been waged with impressive innovation in China, where public campaigns against spitting date as far back as the 1950s. But with the relatively-recent SARS scare and the country looking to establish itself as a global power, anti-spitting laws have become increasingly strict in parts of the country. In Guangzhou, locals risk having their home seized if they are caught spitting a certain number of times while Kunming officials have dispatched a task force responsible for handing out “phlegm backs” to curb local spitting. But this fight against spitting isn’t relegated to China.

In much of Europe, officials have begun targeting spitters, starting with the continent’s most high-profile violators: soccer players. With major health concerns revolving around the H1N1 scare, soccer players across Europe have been told to stop spitting. While the exchange in Europe has been a civilized health initiative, India has seen some public spitters face violent, publicly-sanctioned retribution. In fact, India, another emerging global power, has seen the war on spitting become amongst its most spirited causes, with Facebook pages even helping to fight the good fight.

While the spitting issue has been inspired primarily by health and societal concerns, it’s also become a problem in the world’s most-divided region. In Jerusalem, local Christians have complained of being spit on by neighboring Jews, a reprehensible act that also happens to be disgusting. So can the Chinese war on spitting eventually spread to the Middle East, perhaps eliminating the numerous divisions in the region? It’s a stretch, but there seem to be plenty of people who see spitting as being an evil force in many different ways. We can probably all agree it’s kind of gross.


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