Let There Be Gum

In a bizzare move like something from your childhood classroom, the government of Singapore has decided to allow…gum. That’s right, you can now chew gum in Singapore [WSJ, subs. req.] if you follow a few restrictions: it can only be purchased at a pharmacy, and the pharmacist must write down your name.

What you didn’t know that Singapore had banned gum? Apparently, the ban was part of an agressive campaign to make Singapore one of the cleanest cities in the world:

Gum is just one of many examples of Singapore’s preoccupation with public hygiene. People who spit in public face a possible fine of the equivalent of $586 for a first offense, and twice that for a repeat offense. The city also has fines for people who fail to flush toilets. That law hasn’t been enforced much since the government passed the law requiring that all public restrooms be outfitted with toilets that flush automatically.

Littering is also taboo. Small-scale litter, which includes cigarette butts, matchsticks and candy wrappers, yields a fine of up to $117. Repeat small-scale litterbugs and folks who throw out paper cups or drink cans go to court, where judges might dole out $586 fines and stints of picking up trash.

This spirit of ultra-cleanliness doesn’t come only from Southeast Asia. Much like Singapore, my third-grade teacher forbade gum at all times. If cought with the contraban, a student would be summarily denied recess without a trial.

I had a school bus driver who was a bit more lenient, but still held to a high tolerance of cleanliness. He allowed the middle and high-school students to have dip or chewing tobacco, but only if you brought your own cup to spit in.

Yes, right at home in Singapore I would be.

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