Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

September 9, 2013

Offensive shirts

Attorneys general say they profit from drug epidemic

The Independent

ASHLAND — Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway has joined the attorneys general in Florida and Maine in asking a  boutique fashion company to cease selling T-shirts that feature  the names of well-known prescription drugs. In a letter to Kitson Inc., a company which sells items online and in store in California, Conway, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi and Maine Attorney General Janet Mills called the shirts a “cynical effort to profit from people who have died from drug overdoses.”  

At least initially, their pleas have fallen on deaf ears. In fact, Kitson contends the T-shirts are helping create a dialogue about drug abuse.

The  company’s statement adds: “The T-shirts are simply a mirror of what is occurring in our culture. Perhaps more discussion about those whose behavior truly contributes to the deaths every 19 minutes from prescription drugs, those who provide the opportunity for prescription drugs to fall into the hands of our youth, and those who flood the market with the ads, would be a more salient topic.”

Kitson sells sports jersey-type shirts with the drug names Vicodin, Xanax and Adderall written on the back.

There is little or nothing the three attorneys general can do to legally stop the sale of the shirts. They clearly are legal products that be sold without restrictions. Their only offense is that their message offends some.

The letter from Bondi, Mills and Conway disputes the idea the shirts “open the door to a dialogue.” Instead they maintain marketing the shirts “demonstrates not an interest in educating the public about the dangers of prescription drug abuse but rather a most cynical effort to profit on the backs of the thousands of lives lost to this epidemic.”

In a state where thousands have lost their lives by misusing prescription drugs, it is no wonder Conway is offended by what he perceives as an effort to profit off the prescription drug epidemic that continues to plague Kentucky. But other than expressing their concern about the shirts, there is little else the three can do to force Kitson to stop selling them. Before the three attorneys general get too overly concerned, we doubt anyone ever became a drug addict because of something written on a shirt. And in one way, Kitson is right: The  publicity the three attorneys general have received by protesting the offensive shirts has helped generate a dialogue on prescription drug abuse.  Who knows? Maybe something positive will come out of this controversy.