EDITORIAL: Don’t let rumors ruin Halloween fun

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 12, 2022

Halloween is coming and, while the season is always good to bring scares and fright for kids at festivities, unfortunately, this time of year can often be overshadowed by over-the-top rumors and bad reporting, creating panic over a nonexistent issues.

Those who grew up in the 1980s may remember their parents or adults warning them to break open candy bars before eating them, after rumors spread like wildfire that malevolent people were supposedly putting razor blades or broken glass in the treats and handing them out to children.

It was all a hoax, of course. Well-meaning parents wanted to protect their children, as is natural, but the fact is, they were being frightened by a nonexistent problem.

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Although the urban legend seems to resurface every few years and has for decades, to date, there has not been one documented case of strangers killing or injuring children with Halloween candy in this manner.

Which brings us to 2022.

Thanks to social media, where, sadly, the truth often goes to die, we have a new candy-tampering panic being spread.

This year, parents are being driven to hysterics and led to believe that there is an epidemic of the drug fentanyl, central to the opioid epidemic, being placed in Halloween candy.

Alarmist Facebook and Twitter posts are circulating, cable and radio commentators are pushing the stories of supposed drug cartels placing the drugs in the candy and, as was the case of 1980s razor blade panic, it is not rooted in fact.

The myth makes no sense when one thinks about it – drug dealers, seeking to profit from human misery and addiction, would have no incentive to hand out massive amounts their “product” for free to Trick or Treaters.

The scare stems from the tiniest grain of truth, as many conspiracy theories and hoaxes do.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency has noted the existence of “rainbow fentanyl,” in which the drug is being produced in brightly colored pills, which they said is designed to make it more appealing in marketing and the DEA has advised the public in order that they will recognize them.

But that’s where it ends – While fentanyl is certainly deadly to drug users and always a real issue, the leap that it is planned for mass insertion into Halloween candy is the result of nothing more than wild imaginations and irresponsible media outlets seeking ratings. There are no credible reports that back up any of the panic.

The situation was summed up best by Dr. Nabarun Dasgupta, a pharmaceutical scientist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, when he said in an interview with Salon, “It’s exactly the kind of behavior from the news organizations that leads to misinformation and panics and detracts from the very real public health dangers that we can and should be focused on.”

Should families emphasize safety and take precautions at Halloween? Absolutely, as they should on every day or occasion.

Do things such as take your kids to trusted neighborhoods and events, don’t let them go out alone, be sure their costumes are visible in the dark, teach them to stay out of traffic, carry flashlights and other standard safety procedures.

And, if you want to take a look at their candy haul, that’s simply good parenting (your family dentist will likely agree).

But, at the same time, focus on reality, use common sense and don’t let yet another rumor-based hysteria take root and ruin the fun.