The surgeon general yesterday criticized alcohol advertisements and promotions that use Halloween themes, saying such marketing tactics encourage children to drink.

The remarks by Antonia C. Novello were the latest in a series of attacks by Bush administration health officials against tobacco and alcoholic beverage marketing.

Secretary of Health and Human Services Louis Sullivan has lambasted cigarette manufacturers for targeting black consumers, while former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop last year endorsed restrictions on beer, wine and liquor ads to curb drunk driving.

Novello, speaking at a press conference in Washington, said Halloween-themed ads for beer and distilled spirits encourage alcohol abuse among children and teenagers and could lead to an increase in alcohol-related traffic fatalities by drivers who become intoxicated at Halloween parties.

"Why do so many of our young people drink? There are no easy answers to this question, but clearly the availability of alcohol and its acceptance, even glamorization, in our society are factors," she said. "... Let's not make Oct. 31, 1990, the day {alcoholic beverage marketers} robbed the kids of Halloween."

Beer and liquor companies have increasingly used Halloween imagery in their promotions and packaging in the past five years. This year, for example, Miller Brewing Co. has featured Bruce Springsteen's former saxophone player, Clarence Clemons, in a Miller Lite commercial promoting "the Halloween party of the year." Anheuser-Busch Cos., the world's largest brewer, has been running a commercial for its Budweiser, Bud Light and Bud Dry brands in which a blonde vampiress says, "I want to drink your Bud."

Representatives of Miller, Anheuser-Busch and Coors Brewing Co. denied that the Halloween ads were aimed at underage consumers. The marketing approach, they said, has been driven by consumer research showing that Halloween has become a popular occasion for adult parties. In the past few years, for example, thousands of young people have descended on Washington's Georgetown neighborhood for a boozy, all-night revel on Halloween night.

The company representatives, along with the Beer Institute, the industry's Washington-based trade group, also said there has been no scientific evidence linking advertising and alcohol abuse, and indeed Novello cited only "perceptions" of a problem.

"Until there's proof, there seems to be no point in changing our marketing practices," said Steve Burrows, vice president of consumer awareness and education at Anheuser-Busch in St. Louis.

Several liquor retailers in the Washington area said yesterday that the Halloween promotions had little impact on their sales during October. "If we didn't have Halloween ads we would have had regular {beer} ads," said Larry Robinson, manager of Chevy Chase Wines and Spirits in Northwest Washington. "If a company that never advertised before started doing Halloween ads, you might be able to see some results, but most of these companies have been out there all along."

Nevertheless, Novello said she would meet with broadcasters and company representatives to urge "voluntary restraint" in the future.

The National Parent-Teacher Association, the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence and the Center for Science in the Public Interest joined the Surgeon General in her remarks yesterday. The three groups are part of a coalition backing legislation, sponsored by Sen. Albert Gore Jr. (D-Tenn.) and Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy II (D-Mass.), that would require all print and broadcast ads for alcoholic products to carry health and safety warnings.