Pens Resembling Hypodermic Needles Spark Outrage

Pens Resembling Hypodermic Needles Spark Outrage

By McCarton Ackerman 10/26/15

Concerned citizens are leading the charge to remove the pens from retailers' shelves.

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Syringe Pens
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Parents and drug abuse prevention officials are up in arms over a new line of Halloween novelty toys: pens that are designed to look like hypodermic needles.

The pens, manufactured by Spritz, are being sold as “syringe pens.” The pens are clear plastic tubes filled with brightly colored liquid, topped by a plunger, and marked with the measuring lines found on syringes. They’re currently being sold at Target and are also available through several other online retailers.

Susan Haight, a teacher in North Hampton, N.H., has been leading the charge to have the pens removed from Target shelves.

"Syringes are being found on beaches, playgrounds, parks, and parking lots across New Hampshire," she told The Associated Press in an email. "We do not need young children confusing real syringes with the toys they got from Target."

Jack Wozmak, New Hampshire's senior director for substance misuse and behavioral health, said that the pens trivialize the drug abuse crisis across the country. He also expressed concern that despite the product being labeled as appropriate for children ages four and up, young kids still may not be able to make the distinction between a needle and a toy.

"I think that it is the most societally outrageous marketing scheme that I've seen in a long time," he said. I'm not sure [small children will] know that the hypodermic needle they find on the playground is not a toy."

A spokeswoman for Target said that while the company appreciated the feedback from concerned consumers, they “have not made any changes to our store Halloween assortment related to this product.”

But it’s possible that consumer outrage could lead to the pens eventually being pulled. Celeste Clark, director of the Raymond Coalition for Youth, an organization in New Hampshire that works to reduce substance abuse, helped lead a successful coalition in 2013 to have a candy product that came in prescription-like bottles pulled from stores.

"I think it's an incredibly bad idea," said Clark. "Given today's epidemic that our state is in, it just seems like a no-brainer that something like that shouldn't be on the shelves."

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.

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