100 Years of Chewing Gum

17:55 Tuesday 18th October 2011
Drive BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

ANDY BURROWS: It’s been on sale for 100 years, and if you’re a fan of it, boffins think we probably chew 100 pieces of gum every year. But do you love it or hate it? It’s a sticky problem, or an irresistably chewy treat. Kat Harbourne reports. (TAPE) (MUSIC)
KAT HARBOURNE: Happy 100th birthday, stick chewing gum. Chewing gum has been around in a slightly different format for more than 100 years. In fact, Ancient Greeks used to chew mastic, which was their version of chewing gum, made from mastic tree resin. And now, on average, Brits chew around 100 pieces of gum a year. But that total is beaten by the Americans, who chew around 182 sticks a year. (MUSIC) (OB) (VOXPOP) Why do you chew chewing gum? Why do you buy it?
MALE ONE: Because it leaves your breath smelling fresh.
FEMALE ONE: It stops my breath smelling like coffee and cigarettes.
KATE HARBOURNE: Not everyone is such a fan though.
MALE TWO: It’s like a cow, chewing the cud. Honestly, what’s the point of that? I think it’s disgusting actually. (MUSIC)
KATE HARBOURNE: And sometimes the minty stuff can leave you in a sticky situation.
WOMAN TWO: Unfortunately at our school people used to put chewing gum on the radiators, and so not only was it sticky, but it was warm and sticky. So you’d stand up and you’d have chewing gum stuck to your bottom, which is most unpleasant. (LAUGHS)
WOMAN THREE: I once was eating some chewing gum in a changing room and it fell out. I didn’t work out where it was until I went to pay for something, and it was in my wallet, which is a bit gross.
KAT HARBOURNE: I’ve got a fact for you. One of the major manufacturers of chewing gum took over the neon sign in Piccadilly Circus for 40 years, with 7,700 bulbs, and 150 miles of wiring. (MUSIC) Did you know that chewing gum is the most impulsively purchased category of item, with 71% purchased at the checkout.
WOMAN FOUR: I can believe that. Because you just do it when you’re there, don’t you? You never go out specifically to buy gum.
KAT HARBOURNE: During the First Worls War, many soldiers chewed gum in the trenches, to keep them focused.
WOMAN FIVE: That’s an interesting fact. (MUSIC) (LIVE) (STUDIO)
ANDY BURROWS: It’s so expensive as well, isn’t it, these days, chewing gum? It’s hideously expensive. And it’s one of those great items .. that was Kat Harbourne there with that report .. it’s one of those great items as she said there that people buy on impulse, don’t they? They stick it at the front near the till, when you’re at petrol stations, and you think, I’ll just get some chewing gum. You think the price of petrol’s eye-watering, how much is a packet of chewing gum these days? It’s incredible, isn’t it? And I remember chewing gum on radiators at school as well, and I remember getting it all over my school blazer, because I’d been leaning during an exam on the radiator, and could barely take my arm off. And the teacher told off the whole school the next day. Rather than say chewing gum though, he addressed the whole school, and said .. these are words that will stick in my mind for ever .. who put on the radiator that bubbly gum?