Why do we need it? Where is the pleasure in masticating a stick of grey, inedible gum until your jaw aches, and long after the flavour has gone? Not only does it make you look uncouth, but it is of no obvious benefit. Then, there's the mess. The scourge of every pavement, used gum also lurks in the most inappropriate places: beneath cinema seats, cafe tables and under your shoe. The removal of these noxious little blobs can be so expensive that Singapore introduced a ban on chewing it in 1991 (though, bizarrely, those with medical certificates are exempt). Our disgusting habit - now worth £345 million in sales in the UK - goes back a long way: the Ancient Greeks chewed the gum of the mastic tree. American inventor Thomas Adams produced the world's first commercial gum in 1871 as an unexpected by-product of his efforts to convert the base substance chicle (the dried sap of a jungle tree) into a synthetic rubber. The tasteless balls hardly rocked the world - it took William Wrigley Jr to do that in 1892, when he revolutionised the sticky stuff with the introduction of Wrigley's Spearmint. A year later, Wrigley's Juicy Fruit was launched. Since then, Wrigley has gone on to become the world's largest gum manufacturer. The company is now run by William's great-grandson, who presides over a global business that reported $3.65 billion in sales last year. Chew on that.
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