dr david bull

Spitting Blood!

In Opinion Pieces on July 22, 2011 at 7:31 pm

Seeing Red

Sometimes here in the madness of LA LA land, it’s comforting to know that back in Blighty there is always a sense of ordered calm and general reasoned behaviour. We take it for granted that the decisions taken by our elected officials are built on experience and general good practice.

But this morning I nearly choked on my low calorie museli and almond milk (who says I am untouched by the LA lifestyle!) when I read in the British Telegraph Newspaper that British police officers have been instructed NOT to stop people spitting in the street because it is “a cultural expression of working-class frustration and powerlessness” Officers attending diversity courses were taught that young men spat in the street to “mark their terirtory” according to a police blogger.


WHAT?!  Now I am a big fan of diversity training and cultural integration but this is bonkers or as the middle class are often accused of saying it’s “political correctness gone mad”

As a doctor, let’s make two things clear.



This has nothing to do with where you’re from, or the colour of your skin. This has to do with common decency and standards of hygiene.

Unlike China, spitting in public in the UK is not illegal. It’s only an offence if you spit AT someone.  In India, they are trying to stamp it out with the Spit Free Campaign. So if they are doing it in the developing world, why can’t we do it ?

We don’t just ignore it, we seem to revel in it. It’s become a rite of passage for footballers and other sporting stars. I for one am sick of watching footballers showing off their spitting prowess on the pitches, but it seems I”m not alone because finally they have been warned to cut it out by the Health Protection Agency.

We have known for over 100 years that spitting carries disease risk. The mucus can carry mycobacteria which cause Tuberculosis (we are seeing an increase in this especially in immigrant communities); as well as viruses that cause swine flu, bird flu and other ear nose and throat infections.

In the outbreak of TB in the 1940’s there were signs prohibiting spitting in public. And it was illegal until 199o in the UK until some bright spark changed that.  So good for Councillor Chris Bond in Enfield who has asked Justice Secretary Ken Clarke to allow local authorities to introduce by-laws to prohibit the practice.

People say spitting was common in Victorian England, which it was. It was also common to urinate out of your window, throw your faeces into the street and vomit liberally over someone you didn’t like. I suggest that English society should have moved on somewhat since then. This isn’t about diversity and tolerance, it’s about common standards of decency.


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