Face Off: should chewing gum be banned in Hong Kong?

Joy Pamnani (JR)

Each week, two of our readers debate a hot topic in a parliamentary-style debate that doesn’t necessarily reflect their personal viewpoint. This week’s topic is ...

Joy Pamnani (JR) |

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Joy Pamnani, 18, University of Hong Kong

I had saved up to buy a pair of original Converse shoes for my 15th birthday. But my day was ruined when, walking out of the shop wearing those shoes, I stepped on a huge piece of chewing gum.

Singapore announced a ban on chewing gum in 1992. This was mainly because some people had begun sticking the gum on train doors, preventing them from functioning properly and causing disruption to railway services.

The ban was a great success. Today, the Lion City is known as one of the cleanest places in the world with a super-efficient transport system. It is ahead of Hong Kong in many global rankings.

I think Hong Kong should follow their example and prohibit the sale of chewing gum. We need this ban because a lot of Hong Kong people do not dispose of gum properly. Ideally, it should be wrapped in a tissue or piece of foil and dropped in a bin. Instead, they just spit it out on the streets. If you did that in Singapore, you would have to pay a heavy fine.

It’s a problem elsewhere, too. A study shows that Canadians generate around 2,000 tonnes of sticky residue on the country’s streets every year. In a 2015 article in The Independent, well-known British chef Jamie Oliver described his country as a “bomb site”, criticising people for selfishly spitting gum in public. He called for a Singapore-style chewing gum ban in Britain.

Hong Kong is facing a similar problem and we need to take action now. The situation is really bad in crowded places like Mong Kong and Sham Shui Po.

What’s more, clean-up efforts in high-rise buildings, public housing estates, and stairways and pavements require a lot of money and resources. A simple ban would save taxpayers millions of dollars and improve the city’s image.

Some say chewing gum promotes creativity, but I disagree. Singapore’s first prime minister, Lee Kuan Yew, said: “If you can’t think because you can’t chew, try a banana.”

Hong Kong is competing with Singapore in many fields, including education and global financial services. Dirty streets filled with chewing gum won’t help attract top talent. Even shopaholics may think twice before coming to Hong Kong.

In my opinion, if we’re hoping to enhance our competitiveness and become a top global city, it’s high time we introduced a chewing gum ban.

Joshua Lee, 18, Cardiff University, Britain

Singapore is one of the cleanest nations on the planet. This is due to the strict laws governing public hygiene. One such law is the ban on chewing gum. It was introduced in the 1990s to stop vandals from sticking gum in public places and on trains and buses.

Under the rule, gum cannot be bought or sold in Singapore, and those who spit gum on the street face a substantial fine.

But Hong Kong is different from Lion City. Implementing a ban on the import and consumption of chewing gum here is unlikely to have a major impact on the city’s environment and cleanliness. In fact, it may actually make the situation worse.

The Hong Kong government has limited manpower and resources which means it would be difficult to enforce such a ban. It would impose a huge strain on services that could be better utilised elsewhere. What’s more, Hong Kong would need to hire more hygiene officers to patrol the streets and investigate cases. Also, it’s quite difficult to spot someone disposing of chewing gum on the street or in other public places.

Hong Kong is due to introduce a garbage fee in 2019. Under the scheme, the city’s households would have to pay about HK$33 to HK$51 a month to dispose of their rubbish. Government departments may be pushed to the limit enforcing a chewing gum ban and preventing Hong Kong people from dumping their garbage illegally to avoid the waste charge. This could create serious problems for both the government and people who obey the laws.

I think education is the key to keeping Hong Kong clean. The government should focus on the main issues of littering and the illegal dumping of waste rather than pushing for a ban on chewing gum, which is only a minor problem. I think such a ban is simply a waste of time and money.

Edited by M. J. Premaratne