New York Legislature Considers ‘Tide Pod’ Packaging Bill

Published March 6, 2018

The New York state legislature is considering a bill that would regulate how laundry detergent is packaged and sold in the state.

State Sen. Brad Hoylman (D-Manhattan) and state Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas (D-Astoria) introduced Assembly Bill 4646A and companion bill S. 100 in February, saying the legislation would help stop the “Tide Pod Challenge,” an internet trend in which participants film themselves eating water-soluble packets of laundry detergent.
The bill would require liquid detergent pods sold in New York to be packaged in “an opaque covering of the liquid detergent packet that is not easily permeated by a child’s bite, which has a uniform color that is not attractive to children.”

Questions Likely Effectiveness

Jeff Stier, a senior fellow at the Consumer Choice Center and a policy advisor for The Heartland Institute, which publishes Budget & Tax News, says government regulations won’t stop people from purposely misusing consumer products.

“If kids are going on the Internet and challenging each other to down Tide pods, I don’t think a bill in the New York state legislature is going to change that,” Stier said. “In fact, it might raise the profile of this absurd project, this absurd, dangerous game they’re playing, and more kids will see it.”

‘Done Everything They Can’

Shoshana Weissmann, a digital media specialist at the R Street Institute, says government regulations won’t prevent people from doing self-destructive things.

“I really don’t think there’s a place for lawmakers, beyond just working with the companies to try to figure something out, because the companies do have a financial incentive to keep children away from it,” Weissmann said. “I think they’ve done everything they can do to persuade people against eating Tide pods.” 

‘Knee-Jerk Government Reaction’

Stier says the bill won’t do what its sponsors say they intend.

“If they pass this legislation, it’s not going to solve the problem,” Stier said. “Kids will still do stupid, dangerous things, and they’ll just find other stupid, dangerous things to do. It doesn’t, therefore, automatically mean that you need a knee-jerk government reaction taking away consumer choice. They [Hoylman and Simotas] are pushing hard to take away consumer choice and suggest that we are incapable of being responsible.”

Weissmann says she thinks legislators often make useless regulations just to indicate they care.

“Unfortunately, government has a lot of incentive to look like it’s doing something helpful, when it’s really not,” Weissmann said.