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Dare you kiss while chewing gum?

Many years ago, when I was young and foolish, I left a wad of chewing gum in my mouth while munching a chocolate. To my surprise, the gum promptly disintegrated, merged with the chocolate, and disappeared down my throat. I thought no more about it until a few weeks ago, when I read about an American gum chewer having reported a similar experience.

S.M. of Seattle, Washington, sent this message to Cecil Adams, aka The World's Smartest Human Being : "The enigmatic enzyme that dissolves gum might occur in chocolate. When I was a child, my Double Bubble gum would disintegrate if I ate M&Ms at the same time. I trust you will continue to pursue this matter."

Adams is one of America's funniest writers. For almost a third of a century he has written for the Chicago Reader a question-and-answer column, The Straight Dope, that has been widely syndicated, mostly in alternative-style newspapers.

Before answering S.M.'s question, Adams made his usual in-depth study, and discovered that chocolates form only a minor part of the dissolving chewing gum phenomenon. After lengthy research, he wrote a truly hilarious column: Does passionate kissing cause your chewing gum to disintegrate? Be sure to read it, by clicking on the link at the end of this story. It's a gem.

While we're stuck on chewing gum, two UK towns have come up with ingenious plans to reduce the amount of discarded blobs of gum polluting their streets and footpaths, Nick Webster reported last month in London's Daily Mirror.

"You'll have trodden on it, or scraped it off the kids' clothes and cursed the idiot who spat it out in the first place," he wrote. "Chewing gum on the streets is the curse of local authorities and costs them £150 million each year to clean up. That's the equivalent of taking on 5,000 new teachers a year.

"Unlike cigarette ends and other litter it can't simply be swept away, so dedicated teams of cleaners work round the clock specifically to shift the stuff. But the gum busters are fighting a losing battle - and the focus is moving from cleaning to preventing it hitting the streets in the first place.

"One novel solution is the erection of gum boards. In Poole, Dorset, pictures of celebrities were put up and chewers invited to stick their gum on the face of Jeffrey Archer [author and former MP] or Jeremy Beadle [author, TV star and radio presenter].

"Huddersfield took a political route - chewers are invited to stick their used gum on the 'yes' or 'no' answers to burning questions of the day."

Poole's official website has this to say:

  • National research has shown that the largest proportion of people who chew gum and litter are aged between 13 and 24. (Personally, I never chew litter).
  • 13 million sticks of gum are chewed daily in Britain alone.
  • Laid end to end, the sticks of gum produced by Wrigley’s every day would stretch from Glasgow to Plymouth.
  • Discarded chewing gum swallowed by wild animals and pets can lead to suffocation.
  • Discarded chewing gum in public places and on pavements is difficult and costly to remove. It is also unsightly and detracts from Poole’s natural beauty.

Perhaps they should ban the sale of all chewing gum that's not chocolate-coated.

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Story first posted November 2005

Copyright © 2005

Eric Shackle

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