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Don't let £75 fine be enough to make you spit

Spitting in the street in Boston will soon be an offence punishable with a £75 fine, the borough council has warned. But there will be a period of change and education before fines are imposed.

A legal precedent has been set in other parts of the country, backed by local government and communities minister Eric Pickles, making spitting illegal.

Consultation carried out with the public by the borough council has found overwhelming support for spitting in the street to be outlawed.

The council is to make it an offence to spit under the same legislation which makes it unlawful to throw litter down in the street.

Anything thrown down in the street which is not picked up can be classed as litter - from a fish and chip wrapper to a can of drink to spit.

Two men who refused to pay a fixed penalty fine issued by Waltham Forest Council in north-east London for spitting in the street have been fined £160 each after the case was dealt with in court. It was the first to prosecute successfully for spitting.

Mr Pickles has backed moves by councils to ban the habit. He called spitting "deeply unpleasant", adding: "Spitting on Britain's streets is not socially acceptable."

Spitting into a handkerchief or tissue would not be considered an offence.

There have been some suggestions that spitting can spread diseases and illnesses such as tuberculosis, but this is debatable. Notices prohibiting spitting were common in the 1940s when connections were made with increased numbers of cases of tuberculosis, leading to death.

But as recently as this March the World Health Organisation reported: "Tuberculosis (TB) is caused by bacteria (Mycobacterium tuberculosis) that most often affect the lungs. Tuberculosis is curable and preventable. TB is spread from person to person through the air. When people with lung TB cough, sneeze or spit, they propel the TB germs into the air. A person needs to inhale only a few of these germs to become infected."

People still see spitting as a potential health hazard and are concerned about the anti-social aspects of spitting and, by and large, spitting is no longer socially acceptable.

Of those spoken to by the borough council, 71 per cent said spitting caused them serious concerns, many putting it in the same classification as dog fouling and urinating and defecating. There were calls for fines for spitting.

Cllr Michael Brookes, the council's portfolio holder for street cleansing, said: "We have had an increasing number of complaints from the public about spitting in the street. We have included this in our new environmental crime strategy.

"But we do not want to immediately wade in with fixed penalty fines. In some instances we appreciate there has to be a culture change as action over spitting has not been taken before.

"We hope to first of all educate, but will use enforcement action if the problem persists."