The Chewing Gum Myth

Whenever I told people I was going to move to Singapore, I usually got one of two responses: don’t chew gum and don’t get caned.  (The next most popular was, “are you going to have to learn the language?”)  It seems the only two things the average American (not you, my dear reader) knows about Singapore are that chewing gum is forbidden and caning is allowed.

As someone who suffers from what might be considered a chewing gum addiction (particularly when I am stressed, which happens frequently), some family members and friends expressed concern over my decision to move to the only country in the world where it is illegal.  And while there have been several occasions (usually when working on upcoming presentations) that I have craved gum, I’ve somehow managed to survive.

So what did I recently discover, 8 months into my 9 month grant? You CAN BUY CHEWING GUM in Singapore.  Early on, I had heard that you could buy chewing gum for medicinal purposes, but I didn’t pay much attention.  After all, I don’t smoke, so I have no need for (or interest in) Nicorette, and I couldn’t think of a plausible reason for a doctor to write me a prescription.  However, it turns out that you can actually buy it over the counter at a pharmacy.

I finally discovered this shocking little secret from my roommate last week.  I was working on my 9th speech for Toastmasters; it’s a persuasive speech and I was, of course, arguing that Singapore should legalize chewing gum.  In support of my argument, I was using the findings of some ridiculous studies (funded by Wrigley’s, a fact I neglected to mention) that have shown chewing gum helps prevent tooth decay AND can help improve test scores and increase weight loss.  Learning that you could actually buy chewing gum at a pharmacy seemed to kill a large part of my argument, so I decided to test it out.

I envisioned the gum in a little, nondescript blue packet, having been manufactured at some pharmaceutical plant.  I figured that the gum itself would be overly chewy (or stale) with not much taste.  Imagine my surprise when I discovered that you can buy several different flavors of Orbit.  (You do, however, have to write down your name and identity card number – I guess in case the chewing gum police need to talk to you.  That being said, the pharmacist didn’t verify what I wrote down.)  The gum is about the same price as normal (it was S$5 or US$3.60 for 40 pieces).  The only indication that I was buying something special (besides feeling like I was trying to buy Sudafed in the U.S.) was that there was some sort of dental hygiene approval seal on the bottle of gum.

I haven’t been back for another bottle (is it possible I’m overcoming my gum addiction?), but it’s nice to know the option is there.  Viva la chewing gum!

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4 Comments

Filed under Singapore

4 responses to “The Chewing Gum Myth

  1. Margaret Amdersen

    Hi Elizabeth,

    If you love Singapore as much as it seems, are you
    planning on staying beyond your grant time? I can imagine your life as a food critic for TRAVEL or for some other international publication. The unusual
    is your cup of tea and is great fun for all your readers!
    I hope each day continues to be fascinating. Write more often! Stay well!
    Love,
    Margaret (and Mickey !)

  2. super post!! makes me wanna go get a pack of dental gum at the pharmacy :)

    • gowiththeebb

      Thanks! I wound up going back for more gum last week, as I was preparing for two presentations. There hasn’t been any research about gum as a stress-reliever, but I think it is for me. :)

  3. As a Singaporean, I am against the sale of chewing gum as I still remember the days where people just spit out chewing gum everywhere. Until social graces have improved, I feel that banning chewing gum is a small price to pay for a cleaner environment.

    Of course as all Singaporeans know, they can easily just go into Malaysia to buy chewing gum if they really need some.

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