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Spittoons were developed centuries ago as receptacles for spitting, similar to ashtrays for saliva. They were meant for men to dispose their chewing tobacco and the abundant phlegm that accompanied the habit. Convenience turned to concern in the late 19th century when a global tuberculosis (TB) epidemic took hold and scientists realised that spittoons might actually spread diseases. After one exchange at the 1905 International Tuberculosis Congress in Paris, the head doctor of the city’s postal system ordered all spittoons removed from city post offices. In the USA, public health departments launched antispitting campaigns to stop the spread of TB—and in some states made spitting illegal, as it still is. By the mid-20th century, spittoons were gone from most public spaces in the USA.1
Similarly, kidney trays have been used in hospitals for collection of coughed sputum of admitted patients. However, these do not disinfect the collected sputum and naso-oral secretions which may be potential sources of infections during handling by healthcare workers.
There are a total of 267 million tobacco users in India.2 Chewing and spitting have been a tradition in India and in South East Asian low-income countries. In India, it is a tradition to offer fennel seeds and sugar crystals to chew after a meal, which act as mouth fresheners and also help digestion. On the other hand, chewing smokeless tobacco products, paan masala and areca nut (supari), increases the production of saliva followed by …
Contributors MMK: idea, concept and design of the study, and drafting of the manuscript; SRP: concept and drafting of the manuscript.
Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.
Competing interests None declared.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.