Starbucks now using blue lights in some Philly restrooms to deter drug use

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Starbucks has become the latest retailer to use blue lights in their restrooms in an effort to prevent drug use.

Some may find it a bit of new age nuance walking into a restroom at a Center City Starbucks and find it all lit up in blue. Maybe you'll find it cool or maybe you'll find it creepy. But the coffee giant has joined a list of retailers hoping to prevent people from shooting up drugs.

The blue lights prevent veins from showing up on arms.

Starbucks did not respond to our emails and calls for comment, but some people think it's a good idea.

"I think it's a great idea, people shouldn't be shooting up drugs in a public restroom," said Bill Pasquarello of South Philadelphia.

And Joseph Dennis of Germantown said, "Anytime you can have something in play that could keep people from doing themselves harm, but ultimately would kill them or something like that, I think is a good thing."

But critics say the decade-old and highly controversial way to stop drug use in restrooms could cause people to fall who don't see well and ultimately prove dangerous to drug users.

"Heroin addicts will get so desperate that all their veins would be gone and they be like injecting the bottom of their feet and stuff like that," said Katt Carter of North Philadelphia.

"I think it might make it worse though because they're gonna inject muscle instead of veins so I don't know. If you're an addict, you're gonna do what you're gonna do," she added.

The company had to do something because when it decided to allow anyone to use their restrooms, whether they were buying something or not, it invited other problems like drug use. The company has also installed syringe drop boxes in restrooms as well.

Starbucks amended its bathroom policy after a 2018 incident involving two black men who had requested to use the restroom without making a purchase in Philadelphia. They were arrested when they refused to leave.

Other businesses have also been using or experimenting with the use of blue lights. The City of Philadelphia itself has been handing out kits containing blue lights to residents at community meetings complaining of people using drugs in their front yards.

The kits also contain 'no trespassing' signs in English and Spanish and drug cleanup supplies and educational material.

Of those we spoke with, most supported the idea of using blue lights in restrooms to deter drug use.

"It's a very good idea," said Neil Patel of Northeast Philadelphia. "They don't see their vein, they can't take it, so it's a very good idea."

"I would say anything that would help the situation and anything that would help curtail people from doing something that they're gonna regret. I think that's positive," said Glenn Williams of Haddonfield, New Jersey.

For it's part, the city says it will continue to employ a variety of tactics to help support those dealing with an addiction.
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