The Yearly Ping

January 6th, 2024 < >

Baby baby, where did our gum go?

Pop quiz, hot shot: mint or gum?

I’m not doing a poll here or anything; this is the Ping, where polls happen only in the minds of our readers. But something struck me just a week or two ago and that is… I don’t chew gum much anymore. Back when I was a kid, and into high school, gum was a pretty big thing. That said nowadays if I need something to freshen my breath, I generally go for a Tic Tac (orange is still the best flavor) or, very infrequently, a Mento. Elegant!

But it doesn’t seem to just be me; anecdotally, I don’t see hardly any people chewing gum anymore. It’s pretty rare. Is it just me? Is it you, reader?

The short answer is… no, it looks like it’s not just me. An Economist article from a few years back mostly looked backwards to why gum was popular in the first place with no real data on why gum started to get less popular around the initial days of the pandemic. (One can imagine blowing a bubble in a KN95 isn’t a great experience.)

More interestingly The Atlantic laid it all out, suggesting that gum – and bubble gum in particular – was a symbol of social rebellion from the youths. The sexual connotations were there (OH YEAH BABY, BUBBLE ACTION) but like anything cultural, things change and shift over time. The youths don’t need to rebel in that way anymore so, well, gum just kinda hung on for a while but has little relevance these days. Indeed, Clueless is the last time I personally can remember a character in a “new” major movie or piece of media chewing gum.

And as noted briefly in the comment section of this article at Takeout, chewing gum is used very extensively by people coming off of smoking. Smoking numbers are way down these days in the US, so this makes sense.

I’m not here today asking you to save the gum industry by buying more gum. (Unless it’s Razzles from the Tootsie Company, our best candy maker.) Just take a moment and think: how’s your breath doin’? Did you just have some coffee? Maybe some funky food? And be honest… would you even have thought of gum before today?

Posted in Snacks

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