Pub 500, a bar in Mankato, Minn., installed a vending machine in its women’s restroom that is causing quite the buzz – and killing a few others.
Pub 500 is the first bar in the country to offer pregnancy tests from a vending machine. Installed, owned and operated by the nonprofit organization Healthy Brains for Children, the vending machine is the foundation’s next step in its efforts to raise awareness of the dangers of fetal alcohol syndrome. All proceeds from the vending machine go to the foundation.
“We’re not doing it for any other reason than protecting the baby,” Pub 500 operating partner, Jay Reasner said. “This is more of a public awareness campaign than anything else.” Dr. Gregg Lichtenstein, medical director of Student Health Services at San Diego State, acknowledged the benefits of the accessibility offered by such a service.
“I don’t see a downside to it. Bars always have signs and notices advising of the risk of alcohol consumption by pregnant women; this just reinforces it by having a giant vending machine in the restroom. Anything you can do to reduce the risk of exposing the fetus to alcohol is a good thing. Whether or not a pregnancy test vending machine will effectively reduce that risk, I don’t know,” Lichtenstein said.
A national survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed that 7.6 percent of pregnant women consume alcohol while 1.4 percent binge drink. CDC classifies binge drinking as consuming at least four alcoholic beverages within about two hours. The effects of alcohol can be devastating to a developing fetus and have lifelong impacts on the child once it is born.
The thought of such a vending machine was met with mixed reviews by SDSU psychology senior Kathy Campos. She acknowledged the benefits of anonymity the vending machine offers, but felt a bar was an odd location selection.
“It has its advantages because a lot of women don’t feel comfortable going in public and buying [a pregnancy test], but in a bar? That’s the weird part,” Campos said.