For many of us, candy and /or bubble-gum cigarettes offered a prepubescent run at sticking it to the “Man”.

Packs of sugared smokes sold like hotcakes at local corner stores with the sole purpose of taking sinful mock drags during Recess, while your 5th grade teacher looked on with a disapproving scowl. Most would argue that the allure of the candy cigarette was from the shits and giggles derived from participating in an act that was really only one unhealthy dose of nicotine away from the real deal. Plus, coupled with a sweet switchblade comb, you felt like the Fonz or Ponyboy from “The Outsiders”

It certainly was never about the taste.


Case in point: It’s been a few years since Popeye Candy Cigarettes bowed to public outcry & PC shenanigans, forever stripping us of the thrill of tucking a pack of fake smokes into our t-shirt sleeve & pretending you were in one of those dancing gangs from West Side Story. The company responsible for pumping out the spinach chomping sailor’s smoke of choice, stopped dipping the ends of their chalky sticks into red dye and changed the name to the woefully generic Candy Sticks.  A feather in the cap for over protective Parents worrying about a gateway confectionery. The glint in Popeye’s one good eye was never the same. Similar to your dog, the day after you had him neutered.

But this was just one type of kiddie puffs available to our so very impressionable youth. Since the early 20th century, they’ve been offered in a smorgasbord of packaging & delivery systems. I particularly enjoyed the ones that came wrapped in a paper sleeve which contained a small amount of powdered sugar within, so the first time you blew into one, it imitated blowing smoke. For a kid, well, that was just awesomeness.


Before the FDA toyed with making the sale of candy cigarettes illegal in the United States a few years back, there were plenty of brands to tickle your fancy while eagerly perusing the penny candy racks, searching for packaging that looked closest to the real thing. If you were going to tempt fate by bringing these things home, it was go cig or go home.

But is there any real proof that links an early childhood filled with fake bubblegum menthol’s to a later, more serious, decidedly deadlier habit of smoking? I mean, I ate my weight in Garbage Can-dy during my formative years, but I have no desire nor have I developed a penchant for dumpster diving.

“A study, published in the July 2007 issue of  “Preventative Medicine” noted make-believe cigarette smoking may be considered illicit and mature by some children, but research suggests that playing with these edible “toys” cannot be considered as a benign parody of cigarette smoking. This new research is built on past research, such as focus groups in the US with 4 to 11 year-old children and a survey of 7th graders which indicated that playing with candy cigarettes may actually desensitize children to the harm of real smoking.”

Feeling the heat, major candy companies “Necco” and “World Candies” went one step further by removing the “Stick” description and just calling them “Candy” on the packaging.


Certainly the controversy revolving around a product the looks so similar to the real deal will never go away, regardless of how you market it. If it looks like a duck and smokes like a duck. Even this week, a well loved candy shop in New Zealand pulled their entire stock of Candy Sticks , due to public outcry of selling something that, although not labelled as cigarettes, appeared too close for the general public’s comfort. *They were imported from the U.S. BTW.

Still, Big League Chew, Bubble Gum Cigars & Licorice Pipes exist in candy stores everywhere. Where were the torches and pitchforks for this unsavory lot?

When it comes to this purported transition from candy to lung cancer, perhaps we don’t give kids enough credit or we as weak willed consumers in an addiction filled world just need a good scapegoat from time to time.

The battle rages on.

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7 Responses

  1. Daniel Public Health Advocate

    I want a candy “crack” playset….maybe scales and baggies drug dealing kit for the kiddies….
    what habits are just too much to encourage children to mimic?
    Benefit to public health for allowing these? none.
    For prohibiting them? potentially a lot–smoking is not a good habit, why give kids a tool to model poor behavior?

  2. Richard

    I treated these just like a cigarette when I was a kid, I now have lung cancer with 12 months to live,I truly believe these got me started on smoking, when I couldn’t get the fake ones, I picked up the real ones, bad bad,bad, candy maker, why must you make it look like a cigarette? Oh that’s right a ball of candy doesn’t have the appeal of smoking like the big boys do.

  3. Mrs. Responsible

    Oh stop blowing smoke out of your asses and blaming your irresponsible behavior on such small insignificant things and back off there are more important things to worry about. I am 24, I had those as a kid, I even had the ones that lit up an blew out powder. They were awesome. I have not ever done drugs, smoked, or gotten drunk. In fact, I am eating candy cigarettes right now. I’ll let my kids have them too. I am pregnant now and hope they are around in a few years when this lo is old enough. Learn how to have self respect, self control and some responsibility. Live on fake cigarette!

    • julie

      I loved them when I was a kid still do and I’m in my 50’s. My favorites are the hard stick like ones with the bit of dye on the end.I don’t blame them for my smoking. It was peer pressure and easy availability. My parents smoked and i could easily grab a pack of their cigarettes.

  4. picklez

    I loved these as a kid. I’m only 21 and it’s crazy to think how much childhood has changed. I’m glad I grew up in the 90s and not the 2000s or 2010s. Surprisingly, I’ve never smoked a cigarette in my life. Although I could see people as blaming these for their cigarette addiction. The only thing or person you can truly blame for your addiction is yourself.


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