Many years ago, the R.J Reynolds tobacco company got into trouble with its Joe Camel campaign, which featured a cool cartoon camel in human clothing who like to smoke. The ad campaign was controversial because it seemed to target kids. The American Medical Association tried to get the company to shut down Joe Camel after a study showed as many six-year-olds knew that Joe Camel was associated with cigarettes as Mickey Mouse was associated with Disney. Sales statistics backup up a huge increase in underage sales of cigarettes that were also disproportionately camels. Tobacco company documents were made public that revealed they were indeed targeting kids. Finally, in 1997, they terminated the campaign and settled to the tune of $10 million dollars to be targeted to teen smoking prevention efforts.
The heroin industry in Hartford seems to be taking a similar tack these days and it is quite disconcerting. Among the brands to hit the streets in recent weeks are Bugs Bunny, Hello Kitty, Dino babies and Smurfs to go along with the previously issued Casper, the friendly ghost.
Spring is here and the city parks are littered with heroin bags, the small glassine envelopes that contain the powdered heroin and sell for $4 or $5 a bag. The users sit on the park benches and tear the bags open and snort the fine powder or go down to the pavilion by the pond and squat against the brick pillars, and pour the power into a small cooker or metal spoon, squirt saline water over it, and then heat the mixture to dissolve it and kill the bacteria. They draw it up in one cc syringes, tie a USB cord around their arm, and hit any vein they can find that is not already sclerosed or ulcered. The bags, forgotten, are carried on the wind. Sometimes the users seek the privacy of the Port-o-potty, and a daily check of them reveals the latest brands, cast onto the floor or tossed in the urinal.
I watch a six-year-old run across the playground and enter a Port-o-potty. I wonder what she will do when she sees the bag with Bugs on it? Will she pick it up? On the off chance there is still a few grains of powder in it, will she taste it? or has her mother already warned her? Stay away from those bags. Don’t pick up any syringes. Don’t talk to strangers stay in school. Study hard. Don’t do drugs. There’s a better world waiting for us all.
But this is the world we live in, and I think we need to set some ground rules. I propose we call all the heroin dealers together for a pow-wow in the park. No cops. Listen here, we say. It is not our business to arrest you and put you behind bars – that’s the police’s job. But you need to show some respect for our community here. If you want to name your product Strike Dead, Killing Time or Biohazard, go right ahead. You want to call it Nightmare of Elm Street, the Purge or Friday the 13th, be our guest. Call it Cobra, Scorpion or Black Widow, have at it. But Hello Kitty is out of bounds. Same deal with Bugs Bunny, Foghorn Leghorn, Kermit the Frog, and Barney. Got it.
And while we are it, here are some other rules to think about it if you have any decency.
Our society created many of these addicts through poor policy that lead to widespread availability of painkillers that addicted many of our citizens. They need to get their fixes somewhere, until they are ready to get clean or there are able to get into treatment. We recognize drug dealers are filling a demand. If you are going to be do so, at least be responsible about it. And of course, none of this will exempt you from police enforcement of the state and federal laws.
And remember, No Hello, Kitty.