Bill seeks to ban ‘dwarf-tossing’ in Washington bars and strip clubs

A US senator is seeking to ban ‘dwarf-tossing’ in bars and strip clubs across Washington and bring an end to a recreational activity that he says “demeans and exploits those of small stature”.

The dwarf-tossing scene in Leonardo DiCaprio’s Wolf on Wall Street

Sponsored by Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley, Senate Bill 5486 would ban such contests and promotions and any other “recreational activity involving exploitation that endangers the health, safety and welfare of any person with dwarfism”, who are particularly susceptible to spine and neck injuries.

Padden said he became aware of the issue when a constituent with dwarfism contacted him about a dwarf-tossing contest last October at a strip club in the city of Spokane Valley. The student was concerned about potential injuries to participants, as people with dwarfism are particularly susceptible to spine and neck injuries, according to advocates for little people.

In a news release posted to his website outlining his bill, Padden said: “There’s nothing funny about dwarf-tossing,” Padden said. “It ridicules and demeans people with dwarfism, and causes others to think of them as objects of public amusement. Even when participants are willing, it exposes them to the possibility of lifetime spinal injury. Dwarf-tossing is an offense to our sensibilities.”

Padden’s ban would apply to establishments that serve liquor and adult-entertainment venues, and to contests and promotions involving adults shorter than four-feet-ten.

Dwarf-tossing originated in Australia as a pub promotion and spread to America in the late 1980s. People with dwarfism, wearing special padded clothing or Velcro costumes, are thrown onto mattresses or at Velcro-covered targets. Contestants compete to throw the dwarf the farthest. In 1989, Florida enacted a ban on dwarf-tossing at establishments where liquor is served, and New York followed with a similar ban in 1990.

A fictional dwarf-tossing contest was depicted in the 2013 film, Wolf on Wall Street, starring Leonardo Dicaprio. According to Padden, in 2012 a man celebrating his birthday at a pub in England was severely injured when a pubgoer picked him up and threw him – an incident likely inspired by news coverage of dwarf-tossing contests.

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