Mr. Hand Beats Mr. Yuk in Contest to Repel Kids From Marijuana

Will a new warning label help prevent accidental ingestion of cannabis? We may never know.


Washington and Colorado both have seen sharp increases in marijuana-related calls to poison control centers since they legalized the drug for recreational use in 2012. The latest regulatory response to those trends is a Washington warning label aimed at children who mistake marijuana edibles for ordinary snacks. As I explain in my Forbes column this week, the "Not for Kids" label may or may not have an impact on accidental cannabis consumption by kids, but it definitely makes adults feel better: 

Remember Mr. Yuk? The disgusted, neon-green version of the classic yellow smiley face was developed back in the early 1970s by Pittsburgh pediatrician Richard Moriarty, who was looking for a symbol that would repel little kids from poison more effectively than the traditional skull and crossbones. Although the Mr. Yuk symbol was never validated by studies showing that it had the desired effect and some research suggested it did not, the warning label was adopted by poison control centers throughout the country.

Many of them eventually had second thoughts. Mr. Yuk was "a good concept and very popular tool," says the Northern New England Poison Center, but "studies showed that Mr. Yuk wasn't effective." In fact, "some kids may have been attracted to the sticker." The Illinois Poison Center offers a similar explanation for its decision to stop distributing Mr. Yuk stickers: "Available research…demonstrated that the Mr. Yuk® sticker is not a strong method to warn children away from possible poisons. Instead of acting as a deterrent and discouraging children from touching a potentially poisonous item, research has found that children often were attracted to the stickers featuring a bright green, frowning face."

Washington's Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB) nevertheless turned to Mr. Yuk for help in discouraging children from consuming marijuana edibles—until objections from the industry and prevention specialists persuaded it to go a different way. Last week the Washington Poison Center (WPC) unveiled an alternative label that is expected to start appearing on packages of marijuana products by next April: an upraised red hand next to the warning "Not for Kids."

While that message seems more fitting for a product that is not in fact poisonous, the new label is not scientifically validated either and should not be expected to solve the problem of unintentional marijuana ingestion by children. The red hand is the latest in a series of regulatory responses to a problem that is ultimately a matter of parental responsibility.

Read the whole thing.

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  1. The red hand is the latest in a series of regulatory responses to a problem that is ultimately a matter of parental responsibility.

    At least it only cost taxpayers a few million to develop, probably.

  2. My hand makes my penis go yuk.

    I don’t think that counts as a euphemism, but like Robbie, I like to tell people how they should feel about things, so that’s OK.

    1. The red handprint with ‘Not for kids’ *is* practically begging to be tattooed on a stripper’s ass.

      1. and/or a line of underwear.

  3. OT: Has everyone seen the bullshit article coming out some small town in Colorado that their well water has tested positive for THC? I’m wondering what kind of political stunt this is, especially since this town still has complete ban on anything marijuana despite it’s legality in the state.

    1. The Freemasons marijuanas are poisoning the wells!

    2. It sounds like the plot from Batman Begins. Google hasn’t lost a microwave emitter, have they?

    3. Given that THC is insoluble in water, I’m calling chemistry BS. Also, to affect a town’s water supply, you’d need to process like, haybales worth of weed. And not those little rectangular ones either, I’m talking the big round rolls. It would be a several million dollar operation.

  4. But…but…marijuana’s not a poison!? The only threat to your kid is that he might have a good time….

    1. It isn’t a poison, but a large dose for an inexperienced user won’t always be pleasant. But it’s not going to do any damage.

      I wonder what the poison control centers tell people who call up for weed overdoses?

    2. The only threat to your kid is that he might have a good go to bed on time….

  5. “Mr. Hand”

    +1 “That was my skull….I’m so wasted!”

    1. +1 Aloha!

  6. Mr Yuk will obviously backfire – telling kids it’s yucky is like saying it’s ‘good for you’. As for the hand, I think it’s fine. Because that’s exactly what parents need to say: “This is not for you.” Skull and crossbones is fine too, but parents must say, “This means dangerous.” People think that kids automatically know the rules due to ‘millions of years of evolution’. They don’t.

    1. As for the hand, I think it’s fine. Because that’s exactly what parents need to say: “This is not for you.”

      Except, if I had to pick one of the symbols that was indicating, “Come here.”, one hand, palm inward would be it.

      I don’t see why it has to say/display anything except Poison Control: 1-800-222-1222. Everything else is the parents’ responsibility or a concerted effort to make stickers and adequate substitute. Ideally, if the substance was that hazardous to begin with, it would be in a place where a child strongly influenced by stickers couldn’t see or get access to it in the first place.

  7. Two things.

    “Calls to poison control center” is not the same as actual danger. How many kids actually wind up in the hospital?

    If there really is a danger, it’s unreasonable to wait until a study has validated the optimal label. Those studies by and large take a lot of time and suck.

  8. Now that I think of it Mr. Yuk looks like advertising on a sour candy, maybe it should be dumped.

  9. In my junior high school years, i stuck mr yuk stickers on pretty much every stop sign, light post, mailbox, utility box, wall, fence, etc i encountered. I liked mr yuk.

    1. I remember coming into possession of a sheet of Mr. Yuks as a child and being rather delighted. High-contrast green and black, great combo. My room was entirely poisonous.

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