07 April 2010
By Umesh Isalkar
Ninety Per Cent Of The 500 Surveyed Knew Their Habit Could Spread Diseases
The habit is among the greatest levellers found in people who chew paan, tobacco or even gutkha. They expectorate on the roads, on landings and inside lifts, unmindful of the diseases their sputum could spread.
Doctors say that the phlegm, especially of a disease–carrier, can spread air–borne respiratory diseases like tuberculosis (TB), pneumonia and influenza and even lead to a TB epidemic, if unchecked.
“The habit can cause havoc,” said chest physician Tushar Sahastrabuddhe, professor and head of the department of tuberculosis and respiratory diseases at Dr D Y Patil Medical College. He headed a seven–month questionnaire–based survey in the city to assess the habit.
The survey conducted by the department of tuberculosis and respiratory diseases at Dr D Y Patil Medical College said that 52 per cent of people spit because they chew tobacco, while 63 per cent do it to get rid of sputum. Ninety per cent of people are aware that spitting can transmit diseases but 75 per cent have confessed that they find it difficult to give up the habit.
“We conducted the survey to assess the knowledge, attitude, belief and practices of spitting in the city. Of those surveyed, 23.8 per cent confessed that they are habitual spitters. While 76 per cent people said they spit occasionally in public places,” said Sahastrabuddhe.
The findings of the survey are significant as the prevalence of active TB is quite high in the country. “There is one TB patient among every 70 people in India. By the time TB is diagnosed, the infected person has already transmitted the germs through the air through frequent spitting,” said Sahastrabuddhe.
If the patient happens to be a tobacco chewer, then he is more likely to spit and, in turn, infect others, he added. “Most people become transmitters of TB due to frequent spitting. A single drug–resistant TB patient can cause immense damage due to this habit. It is dangerous,” he said.
As many as 500 people from various strata of the society in Pune took part in the survey with multiple choice answers. The questions were drafted in local languages.
They were not assisted while answering the questions. Questions ranged from what make them spit to the reasons for spitting and health hazards of spitting with multiple answers. Participants could offer suggestions that would help curb the practice of spitting in public places, said Sahastrabuddhe.
“Interestingly, 21.6 per cent people suggested that there should be some penalty on those who spit in public places. While 12. 4 per cent people said that social awareness would curb spitting. Moreover, two people suggested imprisonment and one said that spitters should be severely punished,” said Sahastrabuddhe.
“People should know that common cold and serious diseases like TB can be spread due to spitting. Even the most educated expectorate in public places,” said Sahastrabuddhe.
Phlegm contains protein material and if swallowed can be easily digested. Hence, swallowing mucus or spit is not dangerous for health, said ex–president of the city chapter of Indian Medical Association (IMA) Avinash Bhondwe.
- The section 116 of the Bombay Police Act, 1951 has strictly prohibited spitting at public places. The offence is liable to punishment under section 117 of Bombay Police Act and penalty goes up to Rs 1,200.
- Medical experts say phlegm is generated when one has respiratory infections. It is also produced when the lungs get inflamed due to pollution and smoking and eating heavy, oily food.
- “Dry climate coupled with bad air quality, also leads to the build–up of mucus in the respiratory tract generating phlegm,” said Avinash Bhondwe, ex–president of the city chapter of Indian Medical Association (IMA).
- The urge to spit has probably more to do with the commonly perceived notion that one should spit whenever one feels a throat irritation, said Bhondwe.
- School children should be taught of harmful effects of spitting in public places.
- Heavy fines for those who spit in public
- Mohalla committees should campaign against it
- NGOs should step up awareness through street plays and hoardings in economically weak sections of society.
- Educate women’s groups