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CANDY CIGARETTES: The Novelty Gateway Confectionery

While this post is going to be all about the candy cigarette, the idea of it came from a conversation I had with my mother this weekend over a news report that a mother and father were being investigated by Child Protective Services, all because they let their two kids walk home from school…alone. That very incident sparked something within my dear old mom, leading to a diatribe of volcanic vitriol (I’ll spare you the insults lobbed at the parents of today) and reminding me how lucky I was to be one of the last generations who grew-up as free-range children.

And at the end of her embittered soliloquy, my mother said something that brought me to evolution of this post: “…and furthermore, no one batted an eye when I made you run into the Plaid Pantry to get me a pack of cigarettes and besides, you were able to get a handful of candy ones for you, so win-win!”

Oh yes, I do remember them mom, I remember them well.

For those of you who may be too young to remember a time when unwrapped candy could legally be sold to kids, let me paint you a picture:

Imagine yourself in a Chevy black-and-tan Chevette, your mother pulls into a convenience store called The Plaid Pantry:

A store which not only holds the needs and desires of your parents (booze, cigarettes, Clark Bars) but also seems to exist for you as well.

In the front of the store is an entire wall of candy bins filled with the kind of edification that only actual, real sugar can provide. You dip your hands into the loose candy, feeling it rub against your filthy, kid hands stained in dirt, snot and, mostly likely, fecal matter. The fact that you could be passing on a horrible E. coli infection doesn’t enter your mind, as it didn’t enter the minds of the children before you who had done the same thing. You were born in the wee-early 70s, it takes a lot to kill you.

You grab hold of a handful of the chalky, candy cigarettes and head over to the counter where a bored clerk is busy looking at a Playboy. He rings you up and doesn’t blink when you say, “And my mom wants two packs of Tareytons too.”

He throws them into a paper bag with your candy cigarettes and tells you the amount.  Having done this transaction thousands of times, you have the exact change.

Then out you go, back into the car where your mom tells you that you are going to stay in the car while she goes food shopping because she doesn’t want to deal with you.

This was my life and I loved it.

And, I loved candy cigarettes too.

I loved the way the powdered sugar looked like smoke when you blew it. I loved the way that the chalky coating would rub off between my pointer and middle finger when I held it the way my mom did. I loved how cool you looked when you pretended to be just like your addicted parents and how, when you were outside in the sun, your shadow looked like a silhouette of yourself, ten years down the line .

But most of all I loved that no one cared that perhaps these things were prepping you for a lifetime of being tobacco customers or that maybe these weren’t all that appropriate for kids…mainly because adults didn’t necessarily think we were as stupid as we looked back then.

Created in the early 20th century back when smoking was thought to help clear the throat:

Or could be used as an antiquated Roofie:

Marketers thought that kids would love to be like mom and dad, so they created the candy cigarette that looked just like the brands the ‘rents smoked:

Only these came in chocolate, candy or bubble offerings leading to diabetes instead of lung cancer.

Of course there were outraged parents who thought that these candies should be banned and did their darnedest to make that happen (North Dakota got rid of them from 1953-1967 and the US tried to ban the sale of them in 1970 and in 1991, but lost that fight) [Candy Favorites] until, well the candy fell out of favor with the public and became difficult to find (although you can get them HERE).

Now, some people would say that not having the candy cigarette so easily obtainable is a good thing. That it helps to limit the seduction of bad and dangerous behaviors that could and/or would affect children, but I disagree. For one thing, I don’t smoke (well, cigarettes), for another, like a lot of weird adult behaviors and addictions I saw growing up, I didn’t emulate them. I don’t have fondue parties or do string art (although I see that it is coming back in style which is upsetting), I have never been with a guy who sported a perm, nor have I ever, in my life, slow-danced in a living room with my husband to Afternoon Delight while my offspring watched horrified (mainly because I refuse to have kids and don’t own any music by the Starland Vocal Band).

So no, I don’t think that all kids who are exposed to stupid adult things lead to the same kind of actions. Exposing kids to the things that society deems “bad” can often lead to the very thing that society wants, kids not doing those things. For instance in my house, cigarettes, drinking and drugs were things that we openly talked about and if we were curious about it, we were allowed to try them in the safety of our home and only in the presence of a parent (in terms of drugs I waited until early adulthood AND I CALLED MY MOM to tell her, her advice: “I don’t care about pot, but if you drop acid stay home, drink OJ and put on calming music and have a babysitter there”). Because of that openness, I never felt the need to get blind drunk at parties or smoke stolen butts from the ashtray…it just wasn’t that interesting since I could already do it if I wanted to.

A lesson I plan on passing along to those people insane enough to leave their kids in my care.

And for those asinine people who actually believe that two children shouldn’t walk home alone from school, I only have one thing to say, maybe you need to put away the pussiness and stick one of these in your piehole and blow.

I’m quoting my mom here.

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