"Drop the Ice Breakers and step away from the car."
It would've been mildly amusing had it had been satire.
After searching the story to see if it was intended to be a humor piece, "
Mint or Drug: Is Hershey's Cracked?" by Jill Porter, Philadelphia Daily News, one is overcome by a sadden resignation.
Have drug alarmists no shame? This is unintended humor from a usual source.
They've now settled their focus on a familiar group of law-breakers: Hershey's. The offending candy? Ice Breakers that are so similar to crack cocaine in appearance that--what?
A serious story about decidedly un-serious people who pose as serious.
FAMILY COURT Judge Lori Dumas Brooks wanted to make sure she wasn't overreacting.
So she held the small blue packet of powdered substance in her palm and showed it around at work yesterday.
Everyone asked the same thing:
What was she doing with crack cocaine?
Why is it that every time someone over-reacts, they start by saying "I don't want to over-react"?
The story continues in a National Lampoon-like manner.
"I thought she confiscated it in the courtroom," said Administrative Judge Kevin Dougherty.
No one could believe what the tiny pouch actually was: a new breath mint made by - get this - Hershey's.
Ice Breakers Pacs, which hit the stores this month, are dissolvable pouches in blue or orange that look uncannily like tiny heat-sealed bags of cocaine, crack, heroin or any other powdered drug.
The Pacs, filled with powdered mint and sweetener, are meant to dissolve on the tongue like breath strips.
They're even packaged in a plastic slide-top case similar to the magnetic key cases drug dealers use to hide their wares under cars.
Who knew? Hershey's and Listerine are involved in a plot to make their products appear to be drug-related? They are joined by another in this nefarious enterprise by British candy-maker Altoids.
Their breath strips are also packaged in "a plastic slide-top case similar to the magnetic key cases drug dealers use to hide their wares under cars".
This is serious!
Back to the stunned judge.
"I could not believe it," Judge Dumas Brooks said yesterday.Blackburn's statement might indicate why Philidelphia seems beset with crime--other than it being Philidellphia.
"Who in the world thought of that, and how did it get approved?"
The pouches are so realistic, they even fooled Philadelphia Police Chief Inspector William Blackburn.
"Being in narcotics the majority of my career, I thought it was the real stuff," said Blackburn.
"It's a disgrace to see a company selling a product like this and basically glorifying the drug trade. The best word to describe it is despicable."
The police have been spending all their time running down leads in 7-11 and Wal-Mart check-out lines. Meanwhile, the poor chief is fooled by a Hershey's product. We'll let the readers draw their own conclusions here.
Even the reporter, Jill Porter, gets caught up in this outrage. One is sympathetic: how could she not be?
Porter: "The best word to describe Hershey's is . . . clueless."
Good word. Again, we'll let the reader draw their own conclusions about the who gets to wear this label.
Hershey's reaction? Well, they couldn't just say, "Are you freakin' kidding me?" They were more polite.
"It's not intended to simulate anything," corporate spokesman Kirk Seville told me yesterday, refusing to acknowledge the similarities between the candy and street drugs.
"We have a longstanding commitment to consumer safety, product quality and responsible packaging," he said, adding that the Pacs are "clearly labeled."
"The dissolvable pouch is what makes the product innovative and unique. The overwhelming feedback from consumers is they love the product."
The story quickly spirals out of control. Another familiar player in the "quick, we have to do something--anything" scenario is recruited, the tearful victim.
Linda Wagner, a police veteran, shares a personal story that, while tragic, has its meaning stood on its head in this piece.
Maybe Hershey's should have had Linda Wagner in one of its focus groups.
Wagner is a 10-year veteran of the Police Department who switched to narcotics three years ago for personal reasons: Her teenage daughter died of a heroin overdose in 2001.
When Blackburn showed her the mint packets yesterday, Wagner was near tears.
"I was shocked," she said.
"Hershey's is totally irresponsible for marketing this product."
When Officer Regina Missouri saw them, she immediately conjured up the potentially deadly scenarios the look-alike pouches could create.
What if children use them and subsequently stumble upon and ingest a real bag of drugs, thinking they're mints, she said?
The story continues from there, lining up further witnesses, all apparently anxious to see their names in a paper.
All seemingly unaware their participation would be examined by others who'd seen this same story before; with different reactions.
The name of the offender is the only thing different.
The story of the attempts at painting Coca-Cola as a dangereous substance in the 1920s and 30s comes to mind. Before dismissing it on "fact" gathered from hearsay, do some research and then decide.
Same group of non-thinkers, same M.O.
That story almost bankrupt Coke and led to three ownership changes as today's soft drink giant went from most popular drink in America to drug target. And no, it contained no cocaine, as you might have heard.
Research will reveal that some of the flavor was obtained from a process which used denatured coca leafs.
What if someone is enjoying the minty, fresh breath that comes from using an Ice Breaker and gets tased by the good drug-battling Philidelphia Police Department?
That unlucky Hershey's consumer would likely have no recourse, as this article will be held up as "proof" that it was all a mistake; a natural case of mistaken identification between a breath mint and dangerous drugs.
That's one reason this whole article would be absolutely hilarious if it didn't provide cover for future shenanigans. Would Porter, Judge Brooks, or Chief Blackburn think twice about it?
Unlikely, from the amount of mental firepower which predominates this drug warrior puff piece.
Hopefully, no harm will come of it, other than to the reputations of the above trio as reflective thinkers.
Unlike Ms. Porter, we'll let the readers decide that.
[graphics: RAPH, hersheys,listerine,altoids,pez]
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