U.S. Surgeon General Antonia Novello says the scariest thing about Halloween this year is all the beer and alcohol advertising aimed at young people.
So the surgeon general, who is a former aide to Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, warned the nation Monday that the situation is hazardous to the health of the young."Just as Saman, the ancient Keltic lord of the dead, summoned the evil spirits to walk the earth on Oct. 31, America's modern day distilleries, breweries and vineyards are working their own brand of sorcery on us this year," Novello said at a press conference.
"On radio and television and even at supermarket check-out counters we are being bombarded with exhortations to purchase orange-and-black 12-packs and even `cocktails from the Crypt.' "
She added, "Well, as your surgeon general, I'm here today with my own exhortation: Halloween and hops do not mix."
Novello complained that beer companies offer free Halloween T-shirts, bat sunglasses and glowing cups, and are sponsoring Halloween parties in 40 cities.
"They are saying: `It's Halloween. It's time to celebrate. It's time for a drink," she said. "What I say is scary is the possibility of increased carnage on our highways, the real specter of more binge drinking by our young people and the absolute reality of those smaller, less dramatic cases of health and emotional problems caused by alcohol consumption."
Novello, a pediatrician, has made combating alcoholism and the health problems of the young a priority. She said alcohol is the No. 1 drug problem among the young, and the only drug problem that is not decreasing, according to federal studies.
"What is also scary to me is the encouragement of `binge drinking' by our young people. Some of these Halloween ads encourage the purchase of 12- or 24-packs of beer.
"Who will drink all that beer? Forty-three percent of college students, 35 percent of our high school seniors and 26 percent of 8th grade students have had five or more drinks in a row during the past two weeks. And beer and wine coolers are their favorite alcoholic beverages."
She stressed those drinks are just as dangerous as "harder" liquor and alcohol.
Groups that also appeared with Novello to criticize the ads and to push for laws to include surgeon general warnings on alcoholic products included Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Remove Intoxicated Drivers-USA, the national Parents and Teachers Association and the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence.