We are continually amazed at the tactics proponents of zero-tolerance policies, especially concerning drug use, will use to bolster their arguments. The latest in the ongoing battle comes from, of all things, a television commercial for a toy store.
The Toys “R” Us commercial features the company’s mascot, a talking giraffe named Geoffrey, addressing a crowd of people from the gondola of a balloon floating above them. Unlike the case with ordinary balloon passengers, Geoffrey’s head sticks nearly into the balloon, causing him to speak in the squeaky voice caused by inhaling helium. And that rubs some folks the wrong way.
“Any portrayal of inhalant use is bad, especially when we’re reaching out to younger children who are at most risk of abusing inhalants,” said Charles Curie, administrator for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
While we don’t encourage any type of alcohol, drug or inhalant use by minors, we think those objecting to the commercial are overreacting.
We imagine many children — and adults — have sucked helium from a balloon to sound like Munchkins from “The Wizard of Oz.” The difference between this and inhaling paint fumes to get high is the proximity of parents to helium-filled balloons.
These are found most often at birthday parties where parents supervise the activities of participants. It’s those parents who are responsible for keeping things under control and limiting children’s access to helium. It’s not as though the kids can buy a can of it from someone at school or steal it from dad’s paint supply in the garage. Helium is most often found where there are adults to prevent its misuse.
We’re not discounting the dangers of helium or other inhalants; we’re just saying that attacking a toy store for showing a well-known effect is not something to get excited over. Better to use one’s efforts to educate parents about the dangers of inhalants without casting a talking giraffe as the bad guy.