With Halloween 2019 fast approaching I was surprised to hear that the local supermarket Sainsbury’s UK have pledged to end the sales of fireworks in over 2,300 stores across the United Kingdom. Amongst a few sombre feelings of a Halloween without the crack and sparkle, the more mature idea of a quieter October 31st crept in, much like the monsters under your bed also do this time of year. #hiCasper
As a a now converted firework oo-er and aah-er here’s why I’m proud of local supermarket Sainsbury’s and their choice to dodge the public menace that fireworks have become.
As a child the noise used to send my cousins and I running back into the house from the “Witches Wail” of the SCREEMER kind of firework. Once we became brave enough to venture back outside my Dad would hold his hands over my ears as we would wait for some “quieter” version of a firework. (Here’s a tip no one ever told us, save yourself the time as there’s actually no such thing as a quiet firework… I mean, it’s literally ignited gunpowder.)
As the time and years tripped on and my Mum became a Dog-Rescue Enthusiast, seeing how our dogs and cats reacted to the noise of fireworks at that time had me crying for a different reason. Animals don’t understand the spooky-season that some of us know and love, where is the fairness on our pets at home? And what about the neighbours’ pooch that gets kept outside 24/7? – She isn’t going to understand what the noise of a firework is all about and without the comfort of indoors she might hurt herself in the panic. It’s safe to say our house has stopped using fireworks for many years now. Our retired pups can enjoy their safe and quiet Halloween without bursting their eardrums or sending them into histeria.
Not that I’d be one to put dogs before people, but while we’re on the subject, what about the children and vulnerable members of society either living alone or with certain abilities that loud noises may frighten or trigger something upsetting for them? I’m glad Sainsbury’s are standing up for this portion of society.
Crash, Bang, Duh-Damage?
According to the BBC, “fireworks injure thousands of people every year” and “cause damage to buildings, vehicles, [and] emergency vehicles”. A petition was signed by over 300,000 people who wished for a firework ban to come about in the mainland UK and Sainsbury’s picked up on this cry for help. All praise to them as they have stuck to their new policy and made a commitment to the public, that they will no longer contribute sales to the UK firework industry.
I used to do some promotional work in Belfast City Centre and I vividly remember (as you can imagine, it would be hard to forget) one night walking passed Urban Outfitters and two lit fireworks were threw in opposite directions from a group of younger members of society on their bikes and as they peddled away, one of the fireworks landed and ricocheted off of a bin no further than a metre away from a co-worker and myself, we were lucky to have not been struck by its exploding embers or worse. What if it had landed in our handbag, hood of our coats or in front of us?
Somehow every year we hear of a tragic event where someone has lost an arm, a leg or are left with extreme burns and in need of skin grafts from negligent firework sales to underage people. Or indeed illegal fireworks sold here in Northern Ireland that have been made in somebody’s back garden with their Grandad’s old tools and with little to no safety standards and that are highly unpredictable once lit. And once a firework is lit – there’s no putting it out. We all remember the DOE Advertisements we used to be shown every half-term in school days when Halloween/Guy Fawkes Night arrived on the calendar, need I say more?
Sainsbury’s say that they check ID (18+) for firework sales and that they would have been kept in a locked cabinet in their stores, this isn’t to say that the fireworks could have – and evidently have, fallen into the wrong hands in history, leading to life threatening turn of events. Personally, unless in a controlled environment (with fire engines nearby and a few tonnes of water) I don’t believe that fireworks are safe for personal use in this current day. They’re simply too risky and unpredictable. Sparklers are scary enough for now. (And the occasional randomly carved pumpkin.)
Pollution Isn’t Pretty
A ‘regular’ firework is made of a few things; gunpowder “consisting of est. 75% potassium nitrate mixed with est. 15% charcoal and roughly 10% sulphur plus other chemicals.” (explainthatstuff.com) Sounds scarily easy, right? Fireworks cause not only noise pollution but also major air pollution problems and all for a display that lasts 10-20 minutes – it just doesn’t do it for me anymore. That firework smell we romanticise are actually particles of metal mixed with warmed up lethal toxins.
From doing my research while writing this blog there are ‘less chemically harmful’ firework choices out there, such as Sydney Australia’s annual firework display of now 100% carbon-free gunpowder. This may work for them, but here in the UK there are still too many reasons for generic harmful fireworks and Sainsbury’s commercial movement towards a safer and healthier society is something that Greta Thunberg herself would be proud of.
So this year and the years to come, keep in mind about your firework antics.
Don’t be afraid to ask your local council “are the fireworks used in this years’ display environmentally friendly and carbon-free? Could the money spent on stand-by emergency services go towards a greater cause such as homelessness or animal shelters?” Speak up and ask! Remember that the fella down the road who is selling ‘cheap’ fireworks that his supposed Next Door Neighbour’s Uncle’s Wee Cousins’ Dad sold to him might just not be as safe as they would have you believe and were most likely made in a garden shed somewhere unknown and have travelled far before getting to your home. ILLEGAL FIREWORKS ARE NOT PREDICTABLE. Remember that you have to have a firework license at home in Northern Ireland to sell and purchase any fireworks legally. Maybe think about boycotting Tesco and Morrisons if you’re in mainland UK and instead carve a pineapple or a pumpkin and stick to sparklers and tea lights rather than these nasty beasts. Be like Sainsbury’s and say no to the sales of fireworks!
Honestly if this video doesn’t make you think twice about dodgy fireworks I don’t know what to tell you. I just hope this was an empty field that it landed in and not a child’s garden or a dog’s kennel. Stay safe this Halloween/Guy Fawkes and remember to follow the firework code if you are participating! Keep buckets of water close by and never ever stand beside a lit firework. For further safety information click here.
I hope you have a Spooky, Safe and Happy Halloween! #GoSainsburys
Sarah Morrow is a final year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations at Ulster University. She can be found at: