Kid-Sized Condoms: Company Markets Contraceptive for 14-Year-Olds

"It is challenging enough to convince single adults in their 20s to use contraception consistently, even those who say they don't want to get pregnant or cause a pregnancy," he said. "Why should we think that we would have better luck with those in grammar and middle school?

"Messages about abstinence and the value of delaying sexual activity should be presented as options one through 50 for these children."

Protection or Encouragement?

The new condoms are also certain to reinvigorate debate about whether condoms aimed at kids will help teens or simply encourage them to have sex.

Albert said teen sex is already a growing problem.

"Even though the overwhelming majority of teen pregnancies and births are to older teens, the unfortunate truth is that one in seven young people in the U.S. has sex before their 15th birthday," Albert said.

"What are we to do with a 13-year-old who is having sex? I'm not at all sure what the answer is, but I'm confident that the answer is not going to be found in a marketing effort promoting extra small condoms for children."

Norballe disagreed with the idea that the new condoms would increase rates of teen sex.

"We are not advocating that young people have sex," Norballe said. "But you cannot prevent young people from having sex. Whether our condom is on the market or not, young people will have sex. At least our condom will create some awareness about protecting oneself."

Minnesota's Coleman, for one, said that the availability of condoms in European countries has not been shown to increase teen sex.

"The myth is that it will increase earlier sexual activity, but the data simply does not support this," Coleman said. "In countries with comprehensive sexuality education and access to sexual and reproductive health services, they have lower incidence of teen pregnancy, abortion, and sexually transmitted infections."

Greenfield of the Healing Center said such a plan must also include an educational component.

"The fact is that, unfortunately, kids under 18 are having sexual intercourse," Greenfield said. "They probably shouldn't, and we should keep educating them on the problems with such a decision, but this must be done in combination with a realistic plan to address the current realities of sexual behavior in our youth."

Will U.S. Have Kid-Sized Condoms, Too?

For now, Norballe said, the company has no plans to introduce the condoms into the United States or United Kingdom markets.

"If our plans change, we would focus on Europe and England, not on the U.S.," Norballe said.

Thus far, it does not appear that U.S. manufacturers are planning similar offerings. Jim Daniels, vice president of marketing for Trojan Brand Condoms, would not comment on whether his company would consider developing such a product, and added that he could not speak directly to the Hotshot condom.

But he said that safe sex among teens is an increasingly important issue, and innovations in contraception are an important tool.

"Ensuring sexually active people engage in safe sex is critical to our nation's overall sexual health," Daniels said. "In this country, about one in four teen girls has a [sexually transmitted disease], and about 750,000 teens become pregnant every year. To address these sobering statistics, we must provide comprehensive, fact-based sexual health education that includes condoms to all sexually active individuals."

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