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The Indian subcontinent has an eternal problem of people spitting Paan on the streets. With huge migration from this region, the problem has also migrated to the streets of London.

Paan is a mixture of betel leaf with areca nut, which is traditionally chewed in South Asia. It is part of the South Asian culture and seen as a sign of hospitality. It is usually eaten after meals as a breath freshener.

Most Paan that is spitted out is tobacco Paan. It was not until the last decade that tobacco companies started selling ready-mixed chewing tobacco known as ‘paan masala’ or ‘gutkha,’ which has aggravated the problem.

Brent council has started ‘Don’t spit paan’ campaign to tackle Paan spitting. The campaign is mainly targeted at Wembley, where the community is predominantly Asian. According to the Brent council, removing Paan stains costs them additional £20,000 each year.

The increase in Paan spitting on the streets in Wembley, particularly along the High road and Ealing road, is mainly due to immigrants from India and other parts of south Asia, where Paan consumption and spewing is culturally accepted.

A Rising Problem

Recently, more than 500 people, including community leaders, police officers, health experts and business owners attended a conference in Wembley to discuss about the growing problem.

There are similar reports of councils struggling to deal with Paan spitting in towns with large populations of residents from the Indian subcontinent, such as Leicester, Birmingham and Bradford.

Richard Hay, Neighbourhood Coordinator, told ROOTS that since Wembley stadium is one of the venues of the London Olympics 2012, it is essential that they tackle this problem as soon as possible.

In its first phase, the campaign aims at raising awareness by putting posters in the area. There is a fine of £80 if one is caught spitting. In its second phase, undercover cops will be deployed at hotspots to catch people in the act.

However, whether the campaign will work is yet to be seen. But if it does, it can be a model for authorities in the Indian subcontinent to follow and tackle the problem at its inception.

by Rabea Khan

“Can Brent council do what India couldn’t?”


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