Pavement politics: over 50s calls for chewing gum levy

Wednesday 9 June 2010

Pavement politics: over 50s calls for chewing gum levy

There can't be many calls for new taxes – but the over 50s are calling for a tax on chewing and bubble gum. A new tax may not make a big dent in the £156 billion financial black hole in the public finances left by the last Government, but it would make our lives better, they argue.

Figures from the Saga Populus Panel*, the largest research panel of over 50s in the UK, reveal that the over 50s are keen for the Government to impose a levy on synthetic chewing and bubble gum to fund a clean-up campaign and encourage the use of natural gum that degrades when not properly binned.

Of the 14,178 people who responded to the Saga Populus Panel 82% supported the gum levy. One in five (21%) believed that 1p levy per piece of gum levy was appropriate, whilst 20% thought that a more punitive 10p per stick was right.

It has been estimated that Britons chew around 1 billion pieces of gum each year. So a 1p levy would raise £10m and a 10p levy £100 million. This could be used to help offset the £150 million clean up costs paid by local councils. (No estimate exists for the costs paid by business or individuals to remove gum from offices, shops and homes.) More importantly it might also persuade consumers to switch and chew a natural biodegradable gum, which until the 1950s was the only product available.

Emma Soames, Editor-at-Large, Saga Magazine commented: “Look along many of our nation's high streets and you see polka dot pavements caused by gum. It costs local taxpayers millions each year to clean up the worst of the mess and probably costs businesses and individuals much more. If each pack of synthetic gum cost 50p more, it would encourage miscreant masticators to think twice about spitting it on the floor and encourage them to seek out a natural biodegradable alternative. It might also make them more careful about how they dispose of it.”

Despite all, the best efforts of chewing gum providers and campaign groups, too many people still adopt the ‘spit and go’ approach to disposing of their chewed gum. The over 50s clearly support the ‘polluter pays’ principle but also that a levy will encourage people to move towards natural gum which degrades if not binned appropriately. Perhaps unsurprisingly Londoners were the most in favour of a levy (84%).


Populus received 14,178 responses from adults aged 50 and over to its online poll for SAGA between 17th and 22nd December 2009.

For more information please contact the Saga Press Office on 01303 771529

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