Page last updated at 00:44 GMT, Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Paan spitting clampdown launched by Brent Council

By Dil Neiyyar
BBC Asian Network

Brent council's poster trying to stop paan spitting
Brent council's poster trying to stop paan spitting

A north-west London council is cracking down on people spitting a tobacco leaf-based mixture called paan because it is staining pavements.

Brent Council said the amount of paan being spat on the streets of Wembley has dramatically increased.

When it dries, the mixture leaves a dark red, blood-like stain which is difficult and costly to remove.

The council is planning an education campaign about the problems of paan spitting, which carries an £80 fine.

More than 500 people, including community leaders, police officers, health experts and business owners attended a conference in December last year to discuss the growing problem.

Councillor Gavin Sneddon, of Brent Council, said: "Paan staining is unsightly and contributes to a negative image that Wembley is dirty and rundown, which can lead to increased levels of crime and anti-social behaviour."

Paan is a mixture of tobacco, nuts and spices and is wrapped in a leaf, which is mainly chewed by members of the Asian community.

It is a tradition dating back hundreds of years and considered by some to be a palate cleanser as well as a breath freshener.

But when people spit it out on the streets it causes damage not only to pavements, but also to shops and buildings.

Gita Sarin, who runs a designer Indian clothes shop in Ealing Road, Wembley, said: "They don't just spit on the pavement, but they spit on my doors, the shutters and on my pillars.

"It has caused a tremendous problem."

Paan is a mixture of tobacco, nuts and spices and is wrapped in a leaf
Paan is a mixture of tobacco, nuts and spices and is wrapped in a leaf

It currently costs the local authority £20,000-a-year to clean up the mess.

Even special teams using high powered water jets are unable to totally remove the stains from pavements.

Brent Council is planning to spend £17,000 on what it calls an education campaign.

This will involve high visibility advertising with banners, shop posters and stickers as well as leaflets.

The BBC has learnt that if this fails to get the message across officers will follow it up with an enforcement campaign to crackdown on culprits.

"By working together with the police and the local community we are confident that people will think twice before spitting on our streets," Mr Sneddon said.

Brent is not the only part of London which has been blighted by this.

Neighbouring Ealing Council has also faced similar problems and there are reports of problems in places like Leicester and Birmingham.

You can hear more on this story at 1230 GMT and 1800 GMT on 23 March on the BBC's Asian Network Reports radio show or via the BBC iPlayer.

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