Opinion

‘I want candy’ on Halloween

Editor-in-Chief Bernie Pacyniak fights back against attacks on treats this Halloween

October 31, 2012
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Bernie Pacyniak

On my way to work this morning, I turned on one of my favorite radio stations, WXRT.  This 40-year “progressive rock” musical icon in Chicago loves having a little fun with its listeners, in addition to playing a cross-section of music that appeals to “aging rockers,” yours truly included.

Naturally, one of the first songs I heard this crisp Halloween morning was “I Want Candy,” done by Bow Wow Wow in 1982, a cover from the original Strangeloves’ hit in 1965. After two days of walking the show floor at this year’s Pack Expo in McCormick Place, I needed a bit of re-energizing. The upbeat tune worked its magic on me.

This feel-good feeling, however, lasted only so long. E-mails have a way of doing that, you know.

Upon rereading an e-mail sent by two local dentists here in Chicago about their “cash for candy” program, I could feel a bit of steam building up in my body, say enough to start making some hard candies.

But let me first explain what dentists David Fiore and Matt Zander concocted to celebrate Halloween. These two tooth doctors are offering to buy leftover Halloween candy from families at a dollar a pound, capping candy purchases at 10 pounds, which is $10.

“Ditch the candy and visit your dentist twice a year!” Zander encourages e-mail readers. “Brushing daily and flossing are great preventative measures, but doing away with excess sweets altogether would really give your teeth a healthy boost,” he adds. “Kids can still have all of the fun of trick-or-treating, and now their piggy banks will benefit as well.”

At first glance, I wasn’t too offended. Hey, everybody is looking to somehow differentiate themselves as well as their businesses in today’s media mayhem. What got me upset, however, was the following negativism.

“Kids’ global sugar consumption increases by about 2% annually and currently sits at 50 million tons per year, which means parents need to be sure their kids’ teeth are being cared for more than ever,” the dentists say. “Globally, most children shows signs of bleeding gums, or gingivitis, while among adults, the initial stages of periodontal disease are prevalent. Reducing sugar intake can have a dramatic impact on your overall dental health. In some cases, the wrong types of candy can also lead to broken teeth and damaged braces.”

I didn’t have time this morning to fact-check the 2% sugar consumption figure. I mean, is it per capita or net total? Nor was I able to find out more specifics about gingivitis or broken teeth. Nonetheless, my gut feel is that these comments ring similarly close to campaign messages: a bit of truth twisted every which way.

But what really irks me most, is this kind of professional pitch really sets a “downer” tone for parents and children getting ready to go trick-or-treating. Now I understand why most people dread the thought of going to the dentist. I’m surprised that the two molar mavens didn’t include graphic images of tooth decay within their e-mail.

What gets my goat even more is that in the next breath, the two dentists say that the candies collected will be shipped overseas to our troops. As Zander and Fiore note, “Offering a sweet treat to our hard-working soldiers can provide just the boost of morale that is needed while they are so far away from their families.”

So it’s OK for our troops to get cavities, then? Don’t kids need a morale booster from time to time as well?

I think everyone — particularly parents — understand that candies are meant to be a treat. As many of you recall, collecting candy on Halloween, and then examining the booty, was one of those wonderful childhood moments that we all reminiscence about from time to time. Remember separating the “good” stuff from the mundane treats?

Let’s not scare parents and kids to death about eating candy during Halloween. No responsible parent will allow their children to overindulge on sweets. We all understand that teaching kids about a nutritious diet and proper hygiene are critical elements of good parenting.

And while dentists Zander and Fiore obviously have good intentions at heart, they are being rather ghoulish in how they approach promoting good dental care. By the way, have either one of you ever heard about sugar-free?

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