It used to be an offence after all and when I was a child nobody was in any doubt about it. There were signs on buses saying: Do Not Expectorate. At nine I knew that the fine for this offence was five pounds so I took care never to do it which was easy because I cannot recall ever being overcome with the urge to do it in the first place. In those days even the youngest among us knew that expectorating spread disease, TB in particular. None of us wanted to contract TB because so many of us were aware of family members who had fallen victim to it. It wasn't a condition that felled you overnight but once you did get it, it seemed difficult to rid yourself of it and all too many of the sufferers in its grasp ultimately perished before passing it on to siblings. Homes that had harboured the disease were not willingly visited. For one thing we all knew it was unsafe to drink a cup of tea in such a home, though possibly safer if you arrived with your own teacup. Few of us traveled with teacups.
It would be a fine thing if the offence was re-activated. Today in the city I was witness to no less than four public expectorators. The fourth was a boy of about twelve who looked as if he might be emulating his favourite rugby league player. Those much mimicked athletes expectorate with astonishing frequency during the course of each and every game.