Sheetz Testing Blue Light Restrooms to Deter Drug Use
ALTOONA, Pa. — Sheetz Inc. is testing an anti-drug measure in the form of blue lighting inside the restrooms of its convenience store in New Kensington, Pa.
The lights are intended to make it more difficult for drug users to inject intravenous drugs, reported the Valley News Dispatch.
The lighting has been in place at the store, located at 325 Freeport St., for three months.
"I think it's safe to say that we, along with different operations such as ours, (have) definitely seen the impact of the heroin epidemic over the past several years," said Sheetz spokesman Nick Ruffner. "The blue light system makes it so that somebody who is looking to inject heroin or an opioid can't find their veins."
Ruffner added that the c-store chain has no set time frame for the test period or plans to expand it to other stores.
The New Kensington store sits in Westmoreland County, which has seen continuous rise in overdose deaths during the past nine years, according to the report. As of Dec. 1, 179 overdose deaths have been confirmed in 2017, the highest number ever for the county.
The blue light system was designed to help both customers and employees avoid dangerous situations, according to Adam Sheetz, associate vice president of store operations.
"One of our highest priorities at Sheetz is creating a safe and secure environment for our customers and employees," Sheetz said.
Tim Phillips, executive director of Westmoreland County's Drug Overdose Task Force, called Sheetz's efforts "comendable," but expressed doubt over whether the lighting will deter experienced drug users, who are familiar with the location of their veins.
"The bottom line is, if they're going to shoot dope, it's not going to stop them," Phillips told the news outlet. "You can find a vein just simply by feeling. It might be an initial distraction, but I really don't think it's going to deter them a whole lot."
Jeff Lenard, vice president of strategic industry insights for NACS, the Association for Convenience & Fuel Retailing, said that he is not familiar with Sheetz's lighting program, or aware of other retailers with similar programs. He added that c-stores can be valuable for testing new programs because they are located in virtually every community in the United States.
"Sheetz is certainly an innovative company in trying new initiatives to benefit communities, but the convenience store industry is also looking at how we can play a greater role in helping communities. For instance, NACS is working with the [U.S. Department of Homeland Security's] "Blue Campaign" to help communicate the problem of human trafficking," Lenard said. "The focus is not that convenience stores are the site for this problem, but can be a community watch to help address the problem."
Altoona-based Sheetz operates more than 540 c-stores throughout Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland, Ohio and North Carolina.