Halloween hoopla

October 31, 1994

Mother's Day is a boon for florists and card manufacturers. Thanksgiving is a mainstay of the turkey-growing business. Christmas supports any number of industries. Halloween? It's a lot more than pumpkins and candy. By some estimates, it now ranks as a $1.5 billion industry, not counting the candy sales.

This has not gone unnoticed by non-Halloween segments of the economy. Last week, a coalition of groups announced a "Hands Off Halloween" campaign designed to persuade beer manufacturers to stop using Halloween items as promotions for beer sales. Trick-or-treat bags with beer logos, jack-o'-lanterns, black cats -- all the familiar Halloween symbols are popping up with beer in stores, on billboards and in print and broadcast ads. The "Hands Off Halloween" folks say that's wrong, that Halloween belongs to kids and shouldn't be turned into a drinking holiday.

We agree. And we hope the beer distributors agree, too.

Critics may say this is another "Joe Camel" issue, the cool camel that many people blame for luring teens into a cigarette habit. Our objection to associating Halloween with beer has less to do with the possibility that such promotional tactics will tempt kids to drink beer than with the promotion of Halloween as a time to drink and party.

It is a party time -- but more for kids than adults. If there is any night of the year when adults should worry about keeping streets safe from drivers who have had one too many drinks, it's Halloween. That is a night when children -- supervised, of course -- should be able to dress up and parade through their neighborhoods to knock on doors. Turning Halloween into a beer fest adds far more danger to that time-honored custom than does any fear of tainted candy. (Those fears have largely been unfounded.)

In a world where kids too often have to shoulder responsibilities long before they reach adulthood, society should do all it can to let them have at least one holiday to themselves. Halloween is a perfect one. It's fine for merchants to make money on candy, costumes, pumpkins and the like. But let's not extend the Halloween industry to encompass alcohol, an industry that has plenty of other promotional possibilities.

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