Spitting in public is unsanitary and gross

Illustration: Madalyn Drewno - CU Sentry


Many obstacles that come with living in cities seem completely unnecessary: potholes, waiting for buses in snowstorms, and constantly checking above for pigeon excretion all come to mind. However, above all trivial urban tribulations, none are quite as unbearable as  the “haaawwk, ptoot!” of some stranger’s spit escaping the grasp of their teeth, only to slap onto the pavement.

Illustration: Madalyn Drewno – CU Sentry

No other act manages to offend all the senses as efficiently as hawking loogies. Of course, the immediate assault of the ears from the most guttural noises that human beings can make will elicit a response of pure disgust, but one cannot so easily forget the way the face must contort to allow for the projectile to escape pursed lips. Many people may not think spit can possess a smell; however, these people have obviously never spent much time around tobacco chewers.

Perhaps the extent to which civilization agrees with this repulsion shall remain unknown. There have been volumes of laws put in place across a vast spectrum of cultures diametrically opposed to spitting in public. Dayton Beach, FL subjects its citizens to ordinance 86-36(b), which makes expectoration on “streets or sidewalks or in public buildings or places within the city limits” totally verboten. Perpetrators can face fines up to $500 and a 60-day jail sentence. In 2003, Hong Kong created a massive anti-spitting ad campaign relating to public health. In Singapore, one can face fines up to $5000 for souring sidewalks with phlegm. In 2013, London successfully prosecuted two individuals caught spitting on the sidewalk for the first time, handing out two £300 tickets for their crime.

Parts of Colorado have also implemented strong anti-spitting laws. Westminster’s municipal laws regarding Public Indecency–6-4-1 makes spitting in public a crime. The law puts this “public indecency” in the same conversation as public sexual intercourse, deviate sexual intercourse, lewd exposure of the body, lewd fondling or caress of another person’s body, masturbation, and other excretory functions (urination or defecation). Many would not even entertain the thought of attempting to try any act on this list in a public setting, yet so many people seem to place spitting in some category of its own. The question as to why this is demands important cultural reflection.

Despite these laws, it is still common to see people spitting in the streets of Denver. Perhaps Denverites feel as though they are not so disconnected with the cowboy roots that founded this city. Is spitting okay because it is attached to the grit that this part of the world was built upon? It is the only explanation (apart from health reasons) that puts into some context the lax passivity that Coloradans treat spitting with.

Either way, the act is, legally, indecent. It is inappropriate to spit anywhere in the city, and the only way that this cultural norm will disappear is if citizens begin expressing their disgust with other citizens. So, next time the small splatter graces the street, don’t turn a blind eye.

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