Footballers do it. Wine tasters have to, as part of the job. But spitting in other people's presence is an unpleasant habit that may soon become illegal in part of north London.
Enfield Council has formally approached the Government for leave to introduce a by-law banning the habit, and there was a hint yesterday from Whitehall that the council may get the go ahead. Bob Neill, a Local Government minister, said: "Spitting in a public place is an antisocial, unpleasant and unhealthy practice. Any by-law application will be considered on a case-by-case basis, on its merits."
Until 1990, spitting in public was an offence that carried a £5 fine – but however socially unacceptable it is now, it is not against the law, unless the spit is deliberately aimed at someone else. Councillor Chris Bond, leader of Enfield Council, appealed to the Justice Secretary Ken Clarke last April to give councils the power to ban the practice in any form of spitting in public. The idea has since gathered support in Enfield, including a petition signed by more than 3,000 people and backing from the Enfield Bangladeshi Society and local hospitals.