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Indiscriminate expectoration

Indiscriminate expectoration — newly recognized as a prime, yet preventable means of spreading tuberculosis — gets the once-over in the essay “Indiscriminate Expectoration,” British Medical Journal, vol. 2, no. 2120, August 17, 1901, pp. 422-3. Two excerpts:

“In America, where expectoration seems, if report be true, to be a kind of mental solace, laws have been passed to restrain it, but it is doubtful whether there is any sufficient ground for adding a law to the British Statute Book that all who in this country are convicted of that objectionable practice should be visited with fine and imprisonment. There is surely a more excellent way in regard, for example, to the healthy schoolboy who believes that he has been rightly and conveniently provided by Nature with a perennial means of removing the evidence of lore from the youthful slate ; or in regard to the British workman, who requires before any feat of manual prowess the application of some genial moisture to his palms.”

“But in regard to the act of expectoration itself there seems to be some likelihood that a mental confusion may arise between the disgust produced in the spectator by the act of spitting and the fear depending on a knowledge of the infectious nature of some expectorated matters. Such a confusion would almost inevitably give rise to a wrong estimate both of the importance of spitting per se, and of the probability of infection through the sputum.”

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