NYT19980920.0116

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 BC-LASER-TOYS-COX     Some haven't taken shine to laser light
     By Elizabeth Lee
     c. 1998 Cox News Service

   Laser pointers are one of the hot novelty toys of the year, a
hit with teens and Gen-Xers who like to shine their bright red
lights on walls, movie screens and other people.

   While not as visible in Atlanta as in other parts of the
country, the pointers are getting a workout, from impromptu concert
light show to high-tech cat toy. They project a red dot of light up
to hundreds of feet away, somewhat unnerving for those who confuse
them with the similar-looking beam from the laser scope of a rifle.

   ``Seinfeld'' spotlighted the pointers last spring, as George
struggled to find the tormenter who kept shining a red light on a
movie screen and on him in a darkened theater.

   ``The kids who do it think it's hysterical,'' says Crystal
Brown, a senior at Forest Park High School.

   And therein lies the dividing line: There are those who point
and those who are pointed at.

   ``I saw a little kid with one in the movie theater and I said,
`If he keeps flashing that thing when the movie starts, I'm going
to go down there and grab him,''' says Mary Stimmel of Atlanta.

   The kid shut it off, but lots of others don't. Use them during a
Concert/ Southern Promotions show, and you lose your laser and your
entry to the concert. World Championship Wrestling asks fans before
all televised matches to pocket their pointers or risk
confiscation.

   ``Even one's just too much. When you have a dark house and
you're trying to create atmosphere and mood and somebody does
something like that, it distracts,'' says Concert/Southern
President Peter Conlon.

   Some metro school systems, including Fayette and Cobb counties,
have banned laser pointers. They've been banned in such communities
as Virginia Beach, Va., and Westchester County, N.Y.

   Josh Isaac of Peachtree City isn't allowed to take his pointer
to school or church, but says he's seen them whisked out between
classes at Booth Middle School. During class, the gadgets are
always under wraps.

   ``I take it to sleep-overs and we take them out and shine them
on cars that go by,'' the 14-year-old says.

   The ink pen-sized pointer, which he bought for $20, can cast a
red dot up to 1,200 feet away. Several companies make the pointers,
which became hot sellers as their prices dropped from several
hundred dollars to less than $25.

   ``It's fun to shine on people when they don't know you're
shining it on them,'' Josh says. Mindful of the potential harm the
powerful light could cause, he says he never shines the pointer
directly into anyone's eyes.

   A Food and Drug Administration warning on the product cautions
that the lasers can cause more eye damage than staring directly
into the sun.

   Melissa Phillips of Kingston tried to return her 15-year-old son
Nathaniel's pointer after learning of the FDA warning, but the
store wouldn't take it back.

   But even she'll admit that there's a certain appeal to it.
``It's incredible what this thing will do,'' she says. ``I can see
how the kids think it's cool.''

   Contributing: Atlanta Journal-Constitution staff writers
Jennifer Brett, Bette Harrison and Alma E. Hill.

   Story Filed By Cox Newspapers

   For Use By Clients of the New York Times News Service

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