China society
Get more with myNEWS
A personalised news feed of stories that matter to you
Learn more
A toothpick crossbow mounted on a stand. Photo: Handout

‘Toothpick crossbows’ banned by Chinese city amid child safety fears

Tiny crossbows are marketed as toys and are popular with schoolchildren on the mainland, according to Chinese news reports

A city in western China has banned the sale of the latest fad among some Chinese schoolchildren – toothpick crossbows, state media reported.

The ban has been enforced in Chengdu in Sichuan province amid concerns about the safety of the “toys”, the state broadcaster CCTV reported on Tuesday.

Parents have expressed fears that the tiny crossbows could cause serious injuries, the Shanghai Daily reported.

The crossbows — which fire toothpicks and can fit in one hand – are readily available from sellers online or in toyshops, the newspaper said.

Small plastic crossbows sell on the streets of Chengdu in Sichuan province for four yuan (58 US cents) and metal ones for 10 yuan, according to the Chinese news website Cover News.

Packaging on one of the products claimed it is powerful enough to “break paper cartons, cans and even fight cockroaches”, with the caveat that it is “not lethal”. Another is in a box that indicates it is for children aged five or older.
Photo: Handout

Cover News found several people selling “toothpick crossbows” near primary schools on Monday in Chengdu, with one indicating that sales were “really good” and that the products were almost out of stock.

But vendors warned about the dangers of the toys, saying: “When playing [with the crossbows], don’t aim them at people or animals, as it could hurt people within a four metre range.”

In tests by local reporters, toothpicks fired at a close range sank 1.5 cm into an apple.

Within a three metre range, the fired toothpicks easily burst balloons and penetrated paper cups. The effects were magnified when wooden toothpicks were replaced with metal ones.
Toothpick crossbows on sale online. Photo: Handout

One father in Chengdu, who was not named, told Cover News : “These are weapons, used in ancient times as weapons of war, and are now being given to children to play with. It’s like taking a model gun to school.”

Internet users were also wary of giving the “toys” to children.

“Should be forbidden. Sooner or later this kind of thing will cause an accident,” one commenter said.

Another wrote: “Is the person who designed this crazy?”

But some defended the product, with one saying: “It’s just a children’s toy, much ado about nothing. Aren’t knives more dangerous than this?”