Townies are renowned for their antisocial behaviour: Smoking in the street, surly bus drivers, binge drinking, spitting out chewing gum et al. So it was rather reassuring this week to learn that one of our bad habits is at least 5,000 years old. A British student has discovered a piece of Neolithic chewing gum on an archaeological dig in western Finland. It appears that a lump of birch bark tar, with unmistakeable tooth marks, was spat out by one of our uncivilised fore-bears. Not that we’ve improved our habits in that time.
In Britain alone, more than 935 million packs of chewing gum are masticated each year. And it all seems to end up beneath our feet. More than £160 million a year is spent scraping and steaming the sticky patches off the pavement. There are some benefits to chewing gum. Smokers trying to quit may rely on it heavily (even in Singapore they’ve relaxed their ban on gum for this purpose). Some dentists believe the production of saliva helps battle plaque and bad breath. If you chewed gum for all your waking hours, you’d lose 11lb in a year. But surely in 2007 there’s no excuse for Neanderthal behaviour – quit, don’t spit.