The problem isn't that magnets are inherently unsafe, or even that tiny round magnets are unsafe. It's that this particular packaging of tiny round magnets is unsafe.
There's a lot of really fun things a conscientious person can do with fire, electricity, strong acid, or liquid nitrogen. But nobody's been dumb enough to put them in colorful packages with "Not For Children Under 14" on the label.
Nobody cares, because everybody is used to these things. We are satisfied when manufactures put nasty labels on the bottles.
There is a gap between how dangerous magnets technically can be when ingested, and the actual harm they are causing. Yeah, if you swallow them you are pretty much due for an ER visit... but in reality this is an edge case that we should not be wasting our time worrying about.
Parents give their children tick-tacks (because it's just candy, so why not?) and children see their parents getting "candy" out of medicine bottles. When some of them inevitably come across dangerous medication (which happen to be small and easy to lose...), some of them will pop it in their mouth with the fairly reasonable expectation that it will taste good.
How parents perceive the danger of any of these things is not particularly relevant, particularly in the case of medication. The question we should be asking is how much harm are they actually causing.
Cleaning supply marketing and children vitamins cause far more deaths than magnets could ever dream of causing.
Incidentally: I just looked it up, and it looks like children's vitamins? Also less dangerous, epidemiologically, than rare earth magnets. I find that surprising; maybe you can find a better study that shows how often they kill kids.
The damage done by children vitamins, primarily the ones that are dressed up to look like candy, is actually dealt out by the prescription medication that children swallow and die. The danger children vitamins pose would still be present if they were nothing but sugar pills (and sugar pills that look exactly like medication are dangerous as well).
How many parents of poisoned children have heard "I thought it was candy!"?
That you and the other parents you know are reasonably paranoid about the danger of vitamins and other medications is commendable, but thousands of kids are still being lethally poisoned. If the injuries to children from magnets are enough to concern us, then the poisonings should concern us even more so.
Again: I perceive your argument to be that if the government is going to regulate products, it should sort products by the number of injuries or fatalities they cause and proceed from the top of the list downwards.
My argument is that this isn't the government's M.O.; they don't see it as their mission to eliminate all risk, or even the risk of bad parenting. Instead, their issue is with products that appear to be much much safer than they are. Their concern is literally constrained to marketing, and nothing else. I do not see how you get around the fact that tiny round rare earth magnets sold in sets of 200 are, in actual fact, way the hell more dangerous than their colorful fun packaging makes them seem. Zen Magnets appears to suggest wearing them!
I think I have done all that reasonably I can to make my point of view clear, short of writing an essay, but it is still not understood. I'm not continuing this.
This is not a concern I have invented: http://www.ncpoisoncenter.org/body.cfm?id=115 http://voices.yahoo.com/separating-candy-medicine-prevent-me...
They specifically call out parents calling medication "candy". This is apparently something that parents do with enough frequency to warrant calling out. As far as I am concerned, candy-like vitamin supplements are no better.
I would suggest that prescription medication manufactures stop making medicine in bright colors and fun shapes, however I suspect the harm done by such a suggestion in the form of accidental adult poisonings would outweigh the benefits.
I would therefore argue, were I inclined to, that candy and vitamin companies should modify their products. I would not advocate prescription medication companies altering anything.
So my thesis: confusion between medication and candy kills thousands of children every year. There are trivial things we can go after in an attempt to curb this phenomenon (to repeat: tell vitamin and candy companies to knock it off). Nobody is calling for these trivial measures, even though they seem greatly concerned about a problem with much smaller magnitude. The reason for this incongruity is that candies and vitamins are familiar, while magnet toys are new and striking.
I feel like this kind of makes my case for me: Buckyballs was marketing a desk toy that turns out epidemiologically to be more dangerous to children than leaving a chemistry set unattended on a desk.
I'll also make the further point that chemistry sets aren't actually that dangerous (and never were). 'More dangerous than chemistry sets' is a largely meaningless statistic.
As an aside, I don't see much effective difference between a legal crackdown and one caused by fixing the social context.
'Some degree of danger reduction' just doesn't qualify as a catch-all justification for regulatory action. At least not with me.
And in the magnet case, larger magnets are plenty fun while still being much safer.