Santa Clarita Mayor, Rehab Experts Blast Urban Outfitters Rx Products
Controversy Sparked by Drinking Glasses Designed to Look Like Prescription Pill Bottles
Santa Clarita Mayor Bob Kellar and drug and alcohol rehab expert Cary Quashen of Santa Clarita-based Action Family Counseling are adding their voices to a growing national outcry about retailer Urban Outfitters’ “Rx” line of drinking flasks, glasses and accessories designed to look like prescription pill bottles and shot-shooters that look like syringes.
Mayor Kellar will guest with Quashen and Action rehab counselor Bob Sharits on a special edition of the weekly "Families in Action" program Monday at noon. The program will air live on Santa Clarita radio station AM 1220 KHTS and stream live on the Web at www.hometownstation.com.
Chrissy McAfee, who became an Action counselor after her son died of a heroin overdose three years ago, will join Quashen, Kellar and Sharits an in-studio guest.
They will discuss Urban Outfitters’ "Rx" products, and explore what Santa Clarita residents can do to help pressure the youth-oriented company to stop selling these items in its stores and online.
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Urban Outfitters ‘Rx’ Flasks, Shot Glasses and Syringes ‘An Outrage’
"It’s an outrage,” said Quashen, Action’s founder/CEO. “These products may be perfectly legal, but they look like drug paraphernalia and send absolutely the wrong message to our teens and young people.”
More young people are abusing prescription drugs now than heroin and cocaine combined, Quashen said.
“Most teens and parents aren’t aware of the dangers of the misuse of prescription drugs and how prevalent a danger they are among our youth,” he said. “Glorifying these by placing Urban Outfitters logos on alcohol flasks and targeting them at teens is completely irresponsible of any reputable business. Companies like Urban Outfitters -- any large company that serves our youngsters -- have a responsibility to be examples, role models and leaders. And this is not being responsible. Urban Outfitters needs to do the responsible thing and not profit from products that make light of this horrible epidemic in our country.”
Urban Outfitters’ ‘Playful’ Product Descriptions are ‘No Joke’
Urban Outfitters’ product descriptions are especially irresponsible, Sharits said.
“Ceramic shot glass in a playful prescription bottle shape,” one online description reads.
For the syringe-shaped shot container: “Prescribe yourself a small dose of pleasure…fill it up with booze and let the healing begin.”
"They're pretty offensive to anybody who's heard about the drug problem," said Sharits, who is in the trenches working with young addicts and recovering addicts. "That's no joke."
“I was in disbelief when I first saw the products,” said McAfee, whose son Daniel Trae Allen died of a heroin overdose in March 2010. Her subsequent impassioned and very public plea to the Santa Clarita City Council helped motivate a concerted, Santa Clarita Valley-wide effort to battle heroin abuse and addiction.
McAfee connected with Action the day after her City Council encounter, and started working with the organization as a speaker and counselor. She is now on the board of the nonprofit Action Family Foundation and leads its free meetings for parents of children with drug problems on Tuesday nights at Canyon High School.
"I was very shocked that a company could even think about putting out something like this at a time when our government is calling prescription drug abuse a national epidemic," McAfee said.
"One in 14 people in their teenage years or sometime in their lifetime will misuse or abuse prescription drugs," she said. "When you add an alcohol effect to that, it can be devastating. For Urban Outfitters to be promoting these and selling these items – I just can't believe it."
The “Rx” line may have been cute and funny in another time, McAfee said. "But not now."
Santa Clarita Joins National Campaign
The Urban Outfitters drug controversy is going national. The Partnership at Drugfree.org set up a Causes online petition on May 1. Its goal is 5,000 signatures by the end of the month. As of May 19, nearly 4,000 people had signed the petition.
Drugfree.org also urges people to send an email to Richard A. Hayne, Urban Outfitters’ CEO and chairman, at email@example.com, or a letter to Hayne at Urban Outfitters (5000 South Broad Street, Philadelphia, PA 19112-1495), demanding the company stop selling these products.
U.S. Congressman Harold Rogers (R) of Kentucky – a state where more people now die from drug overdoses than car crashes, and prescription drug abuse is epidemic especially among young rural people – wrote a letter of protest to Hayne on May 7.
“Nearly a quarter of high school students – more than 5 million of our country’s children – have admitted to abusing prescription medications and also mistakenly believe that abusing prescription pills is safer than ‘street drugs,’ like cocaine or ecstasy,” wrote Rogers, also chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations and a member of the Congressional Caucus on Prescription Drug Abuse. “Your new Rx products, which are targeted at these very young people, play directly into these dangerous – and deadly – misconceptions.”
Jack Conway, Kentucky’s attorney general and co-chair of the Substance Abuse Committee of the National Association of Attorneys General, along with Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine and other state AG’s, are writing a letter to Hayne to voice their concern, and urging citizens to do the same.
Podcast: Families In Action - May 20, 2013
"Tongue-in-cheek products that normalize and promote prescription drug abuse only serve to reinforce the misperception about the dangers associated with abusing prescription medications," Conway said in a statement May 8. "This type of cavalier attitude puts more teens at risk. I hope you will join me in asking Urban Outfitters to remove these products from their store shelves and website immediately."
In addition to KHTS’s live “Families in Action” broadcast and the live stream at www.hometownstation.com, the station will post a podcast of the show on its website later Monday afternoon for on-demand listening or download. UPDATE: Here's the link: http://hometownstation.com/podcasts/families-action/families-action-may-20-2013-35175.
Urban Outfitters did not respond to telephone or email requests from KHTS News for comment on this story.
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