Did Urban Outfitters Promote Drug Use?
It seems like years ago that I wrote about sandals called Reef Dram that hold three ounces of liquor in the sole. I can’t even remember the publication I wrote about them for—it wasn’t for this blog. I wonder how many young people bought the sandals as a way to transport alcohol. While searching for them as I was writing this post, I noticed there are flask necklaces on eBay, too.
Do we live in a culture so enamored of drinking that companies feel they have to sell these products to make money? Not only does it appear we do, but The Partnership at DrugFree.org has been saying that retailer Urban Outfitters is promoting drug use by “selling products made to look like prescription pill bottles,” according to an email I received. Information on the Partnership’s website identifies the products as shot glasses, pint glasses, and flasks that resemble medication bottles. (I wonder if glorify isn’t a better description than promote, but perhaps that’s splitting hairs.)
The web page reads like an editorial, understandably, because of the group’s stance on substance abuse: “These products make light of prescription drug misuse and abuse, a dangerous behavior that is responsible for more deaths in the United States each year than heroin and cocaine combined. Medicine abuse has increased 33 percent over the past five years with one in four teens having misused or abused a prescription drug in their lifetime. Combined with alcohol, the misuse and abuse of prescription medications can be especially dangerous, making the Urban Outfitter Rx pint and shot glasses and flasks even more disturbing.”
But their activism doesn’t end with those statements. The email included the news that a Kentucky congressman, Hal Rogers, wrote to the Urban Outfitters’ CEO and asked him to remove the items, but Rogers never heard back. In addition, Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway has lent his name to the project. (Could it be that these two politicians are involved because Kentucky is in the middle of the meth lab epidemic endemic to rural areas?) Conway is co-chair of the Substance Abuse Committee of the National Association of Attorneys General. That’s the first I learned of this organization. It’s heartening to hear that so many people are involved.
The email also says that the media has been discussing the controversy and lists some of the outlets in which items have appeared, but I haven’t seen anything on TV or in any publications. The Partnership has been at it for awhile, however; this is the second email I’ve received from them about the subject.
Urban Outfitters didn’t respond to the Partnership’s petition on Facebook, so the group urged people to call the company on May 30 and even offered a script to follow.
I’m interested to see whether the company will respond or not. I know several young people who love this store, so it seems they may indeed have the power to influence young people.
It took me awhile to find some of the items the Partnership mentioned on the Urban Outfitters website, but in early June I found them under the Apartment heading (along with some profanity).
HOWEVER, on June 14, I received email from the Partnership saying that their efforts had paid off — that Urban Outfitters had indeed removed the items and issued this statement: “In this extensive range of product 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.”