By Sandra Conchie
Two Bay parents are "shocked and disgusted" their children were given what they believe are essentially party pills as their prize in a radio station beach competition.
Oropi parent Malcolm Hanson said he was "shocked" when his 12-year-old son came back from the Mount's Main Beach recently with a packet of five Zzaapp energy lozenges.
They had been handed out during a ZM 89.8 ping pong drop competition and his son had already taken one.
"I just couldn't believe it. I was so disgusted, it's so morally wrong to give children pills of any kind," Mr Hanson said.
Zzaapp, described on the packet as energy lozenges which will "super charge your energy levels" and "give you a zzaapp for a week", the BZP-free lozenge is promoted on the maker's website as a safer alternative to a chemical cocktail.
"One of the most popular uses is to pep yourself up for a party. It's not a party pill, it's better," its website says.
The Bay of Plenty Times has also discovered at least one online shopping site lists Zzaapp among a list of legal alternatives to amphetamines, P and speed.
Mr Hanson said there were children as young as five walking away with Zzaapp packets from the January 6 competition.
Mr Hanson complained to the Bay Times after subsequently seeing a billboard outside an adult shop the words: "Zzaapp, the new BZP-free party pill."
Mr Hanson said the pills may be legal and a harmless energy booster for adults but there was no recommended dosage for children listed on the pack.
No one should be handing out any pills to minors without parents' permission, as people don't know the child's background or medical condition, he said.
"My son only took one because it had a disgusting taste."
While his son didn't experience any effects after taking the pill, that wasn't the point, Mr Hanson said.
"As a parent, it's hard enough to guide youngsters away from dabbling in party pills or drugs and other temptations without someone handing out pills of any kind to children like they were lollies.
"Even if they are legal and safe it desensitises youngsters to the potential risks and says it's okay to take pills from strangers."
Mount Maunganui parent Bern Orr, whose 14-year-old diabetic son was given two packets of Zzaapp as his prize in the ping-pong drop, agreed.
"It's morally wrong to give any youngster a bunch of pills without parental permission," he said.
"Fortunately my son is mature enough to have not taken any without talking to me first, but children as young as five wouldn't be and I would suggest some children may become hyped up from taking them."
Mr Hanson said he had raised the issue with Tauranga City Council and police but they said because the pills were legal there was nothing they could do.
Radio Network promotions manager Louise Dean said ZM 89.8 partnered with Zzaapp for the ping-pong drop which was open to anyone aged 15 or over.
Ms Dean said Zzaapp, who supplied the prizes, was also the one handing out the prizes and as far as she saw, no child was walking away with the lozenges.
Company owner Brett Elliot, of Tauranga, said he was not too concerned younger children had received the free handouts.
"They are suitable for all ages and there is no chemical product in them that can cause anybody any harm," he said.
Mr Elliot, a medical herbalist who developed the pills, said that a person would have to take more than the recommended maximum dose before feeling any negative effects.
He said Zzaapp were "absolutely not" party pills and that the reason the product had been advertised as "better than party pills" was to provide people with an alternative to products containing BZP.
BZP or benzylpiperazine is the party pill substance which taken in high doses can create the same effect as taking amphetamines.
"There have been a lot of bad results with products containing BZP. Our whole approach is to offer people an alternative approach which is healthy. They are lozenges, they're not actually pills as such. We didn't actually class them as pills because you are stepping into another product category," he said.
Tauranga police Senior Sergeant Wayne Mills said regulations were fairly lax and while Zzaapps might be legal it was quite concerning that someone had given "those sort of tablets out as a prize, even to a 15-year-old". He questioned the ethics of dispensing lozenges on a beach.
- with Carly Udy and Joel Ford