This opinion piece was originally posted at Watchdog.org.
By Maggie Thurber | for Ohio Watchdog
Has Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine helped get a potentially dangerous product off the shelves or does he just have no sense of humor? Maybe he should be heeding Alcoholics Anonymous’ famous Rule No. 62: “don’t take yourself too damn seriously.”
Here’s the issue: does a coffee mug that mimics a prescription bottle and says “Prescription Coffee, RX#: VRY-CAF-N8D, Drink one mug by mouth, repeat until awake and alert” make fun of prescription drug abuse?
DeWine thinks so.
“People die from accidental drug overdoses in this state every day, and these products make light of the problem,” DeWine said in a May press release. “We don’t find these products funny at all.”
“These products” referred to the Prescription Line produced by Urban Outfitters, Inc., a national company listed on NASDAQ with revenues of $2.8 billion and three locations in the state.
May was when DeWine and 22 other state attorneys general asked the company to pull the Prescription Line of glasses, coasters, mugs and drink holders. On June 10, theAmerican Association of Poison Control Centers and 57 local poison centers wrote a similar letter asking that the products be removed.
The letter from the AGs, addressed to Richard Hayne, CEO and chairman of the company, said: ”These products demean the thousands of deaths that occur each month in the United States from accidental overdoses. These products are not in any way fun or humorous but make light of this rampant problem.”
The Partnership at Drugfree.org went further and categorized them as “prescription drug paraphernalia products.”
Urban Outfitters, in a statement issued earlier this week to CNN, gave in to the political pressure and announced they were pulling the products:
“In the 20,000 products that comprise our assortment, there are styles that represent humor, satire, and hyperbole. In this extensive range of products we recognize that from time to time there may be individual items that are misinterpreted by people who are not our customer. As a result of this misinterpretation we are electing to discontinue these few styles from our current product offering.”
Politicians and anti-drug groups rejoiced and issued statements of praise for the decision.
Like beauty, humor is in the eye of the beholder and I thought the mugs were quite humorous, and nothing at all like drug paraphernalia.
I loved the hyperbole, especially since I’ve relied upon coffee as just ‘what the doctor ordered’ as a solution to a bleary-eyed, tired morning. I’m sure others have felt the same way.
Drug abuse is a problem, whether it be prescriptions, alcohol or illegal substances. It hurts not only the abuser, but their family and friends as well.
Most people probably don’t see the connection to the product. I don’t think this mug makes light of the problem. In fact, I see nothing whatsoever related to drug abuse, and I can’t understand how a mug could “undermine” government efforts to stop such abuse.
One could ask why that is the role of government in the first place – but will any of the products in the line really cause millions of people who use prescription drugs correctly to suddenly turn into addicts or abusers?
The News Herald in Panama City, Fla., one of the states whose AG signed the letter, opined:
“These public officials are going after jokes. That’s no laughing matter. Is there ANY evidence that hipster humor actually costs lives? Do people really see these jokey items as permission to break the law and engage in self-destructive behavior? If so, maybe the attorneys general also should look into persuading Urban Outfitters to stop selling Che Guevara posters, lest impressionable minds get the idea that Marxist revolution is romantic.”
When I was little we had candy cigarettes and bubble gum cigars. They were popular for the fun of them, though the ‘cigar’ had more bubble gum than a regular piece did so it was a way to get more chewing pleasure for the price.
I didn’t grow up thinking I should smoke the real things as a result of these candies — and neither did any of my friends. Peer pressure and parental habits had more to do with the decision to smoke — or not — than any candy ever did.
While I haven’t checked, I’d be surprised if those two candies did not come under similar pressure and are now outlawed.
Heaven forbid that we let children pretend about anything that might possibly harm them, like playing with a toy gun, drawing a picture of a gun or making a pastry into the shape of one.
Yet we have a government that believes a child should be able to get an abortion pill — a medical treatment with potential negative side effects both physical and psychological — without a prescription or even their parent’s knowledge.
What’s next? Forbidding jokes or even references to “what the doctor ordered” or “good for what ails you” in case someone might (inaccurately) perceive it as making light of people abusing prescriptions?
This isn’t really about prescription drug abuse — it’s about control. Urban Outfitters will lose income and many individuals who liked the product will be deprived of its use.
But politicians and anti-drug groups will be able to claim a win, and the root problems that cause someone to begin abusing in the first place will continue.