BEIJING (WWJ/AP) – Some people think fidget spinners are a problem, but a low-tech toy craze overseas is a bit more concerning.
Powerful metal mini-crossbows that shoot toothpicks and needles are the new must-have toy for schoolkids across China — and a nightmare for concerned parents and school officials.
Several cities including Shenzhen and Qingdao have reportedly banned sales of the palm-sized contraptions, which sell for about $1 and are powerful enough to puncture soda cans, apples and cardboard, depending on the projectile.
The Associated Press reports the fad appears to have sprung out of the southwest city of Chengdu but quickly spread to China’s east coast and even across the border to Hong Kong. In the Chinese territory of Macau, police issued a warning Tuesday that using the crossbows might constitute a criminal offense.
Although there have not yet been widespread reports of serious injuries, parents across China have raised concerns with schools, with many circulating petitions on social media in support of a nationwide ban.
“People getting blinded will become commonplace, must ban!” said one user on the messaging forum hupu.com while another asked: “What was the inventor of this thing thinking?”
On Yahoo News, one user commented: “Remember match guns made out of wooden clothes pins and firing (literally) wooden kitchen matches? So, is this progress?”
On ebay, there are dozens of varieties for sale in silver and gold tones for as little as around $3 to as much as $50, as well as a tiny arrows designed to fit the mini weapons. U.S. shoppers are offered free shipping, in many cases, from China, Thailand and the Philippines.
The items are clearly marketed to children with listings with titles like “Stainless Steel Toothpicks Mini Silver Crossbow Bow Arrow Kids Children Archery.”
Taobao and JD.com, China’s two most popular e-commerce sites, have responded in recent days by blocking sales. Searches for “crossbow” or “toothpick crossbow” now return empty.
© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.