The Real Reason Candy Cigarettes Were Almost Banned

Candy cigarettes are pretty awful. They come as chalky hard candies, or as bubble gums that turn into a silly-putty consistency faster than you can blow a bubble (via Thrillist). It's hard to believe that such an unattractive candy was once so popular it was almost contraband. Why did kids long for them? 

Candy cigarettes have a torrid history that dates back to the roaring '20s, when smoking soon became part of a modern, all-American lifestyle. Back then, there wasn't anything smoking couldn't achieve. During an Easter parade in New York City, for example, the American Tabacco company hired a group of women to march with "torches of freedom," and just like that, cigarettes became a symbol of women's rights (via CDC). Earlier that decade, Murad Cigarettes released an ad of Santa taking a cigarette break on a rooftop, and just like that, smoking was endorsed by Santa Claus (via CBS). 

It didn't take long for World Candies and Necco to jump on the bandwagon, and candy cigarettes started popping up in candy stores nationwide. Big tobacco companies even provided the candy companies art directives to design more realistic packaging (via Mother Jones). It paid off. According to a study by the University of Rochester, your odds of smoking cigarettes increases significantly if you "smoke" candy cigarettes as a kid. 

Given this correlation, it's hardly surprising that the U.S. debated banning cigarettes in both 1970 and 1991 (via Candy Favorites). The real story here, though, is how candy cigarettes survived. 

The secret world of manufacturing candy cigarettes

According to Thrillist, World Confections Inc. is the only big manufacturer of candy cigarettes left in the game. The company reportedly declined to talk to Thrillest about its production of the cigarettes, despite the page's attempts to contact them. Thrillist attributes the company's silence as a ploy to stay under the radar and avoid unwanted media attention. 

And unwanted media attention can do damage. In 2012, candy cigarettes stirred up national controversy when government officials in St. Paul, Minnesota fined a store for selling them (via ABC News). That's certainly not the kind of attention that World Confection Inc. would look for, especially considering that candy cigarettes have been successfully banned in Maine and Tennessee.  

Interestingly, World Confection's website might lead you to believe that the only thing the company manufactures that looks anything like a candy cigarette currently is superhero-branded "candy sticks." These are similar to candy cigarettes, but lack the traditional cigarette packaging that made the candies so appealing.  

That doesn't mean that the company's original line of candy cigarettes are gone, though. They're readily available on websites such as Amazon to Candy R Us to Office Depot. Where are they manufactured? If the information on Amazon and Candy R Us is to be believed, it manufactures the cigarettes in Colombia.