Halloween toy pens resembling syringes have become a topic of debate among Americans. Parents and drug abuse prevention advocates have voiced concern over the pens amid a rising heroin and opioid addiction problem in the country, the Associated Press (AP) reported Thursday.
The pens, which are widely available online and in Target stores for the much-awaited holiday, come with a bright liquid filled in a transparent plastic tube marked with measuring lines usually found on syringes.
"I think it's an incredibly bad idea," Celeste Clark, director of Raymond Coalition for Youth, a New Hampshire organization that works toward reducing substance abuse, according to AP. "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."
According to Clark, the pens could confuse children who are unaware of the differences between a toy and a real needle. "It's exposing kids to hypodermic needles when we really should be raising awareness to their danger, especially now when they're finding them in parks, on walking trails, on biking trails," Clark said.
However, Nikki Shipley, a mother of two children, 7 and 12, said that the concern over the pens is hyped. Shipley told AP that it was the responsibility of parents to make sure that children did not use such toys.
"Through time, society has found more ways to blame others for things," Shipley said, according to the AP. "A needle pen is not the cause of a heroin epidemic, nor does it promote it."
A spokeswoman for Minneapolis-based Target said that the company had heard complaints from consumers but will leave the product on the shelves.
"We have not made any changes to our store Halloween assortment related to this product," Molly Snyder said. "At Target, our intent is never to offend any of our guests, and we appreciate their feedback. We have shared this feedback with the merchants for them to consider as they plan for future merchandise assortment."
North Hampton teacher Susan Haight was the first to talk about the problems associated with the toy pens. "Syringes are being found on beaches, playgrounds, parks, and parking lots across New Hampshire," Haight told AP in an email. "We do not need young children confusing real syringes with the toys they got from Target."