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Powerful mini-crossbows that shoot toothpicks and needles are the new must-have toy for schoolkids across China — and a nightmare for concerned parents and school officials.
Several cities including Shenzhen and Qingdao have reportedly banned sales of the palm-sized contraptions, which sell for about $1 and are powerful enough to puncture soda cans, apples and cardboard, depending on the projectile.
The fad appears to have sprung out of the southwest city of Chengdu but quickly spread to China's east coast and even across the border to Hong Kong. In the Chinese territory of Macau, police issued a warning Tuesday that using the crossbows might constitute a criminal offense.
Although there have not yet been widespread reports of serious injuries, parents across China have raised concerns with schools, with many circulating petitions on social media in support of a nationwide ban.
"People getting blinded will become commonplace, must ban!" said one user on the messaging forum hupu.com while another asked: "What was the inventor of this thing thinking?"
Taobao and JD.com, China's two most popular e-commerce sites, have responded in recent days by blocking sales. Searches for "crossbow" or "toothpick crossbow" now return empty.