When I was a kid, they used to sell these wonderful bubble gum candy cigarettes. Back then, the box they came in was similar in shape and size to a real pack of cigarettes; heck, they even had the same names: Kool, L&M, Lark. You opened the box and inside were little tubes of bubble gum wrapped in white and brown paper wrappers. The gum was red, of course, so when you jammed the end of one in your mouth, it looked like a lit cigarette. You could even blow on the end and emit a puff of powdered sugar “smoke”.
I don’t remember the gum being very good in these candy cigarettes. It was maybe half a step better than those fossilized blades of gum found in packs of Star Wars cards. But the look of them more than made up for any foul taste (sort of the same marketing approach for real cigarettes). I can remember emulating my grandpa as I worked on my bicycle in the garage (or something similarly All-American) with my candy cigarette dangling from my lower lip.
Now, normally, I’m not a big fan of political correctness, but at some point in the past, I think someone of this crowd put a stop to candy cigarettes. I have to admit, I doubt I gave it much thought when they no longer lined the hallowed shelves of Snyder’s Drugs in Schaumburg, Illinois. I probably shrugged and switched to Pixy Sticks; powdery sugar in a ready-to-snort straw (mirror sold separately).
But I digress.
I have never smoked a cigarette in my life, yet I know how to hold one between my fingers and flick an imaginary ash. That’s not something I’m proud of. Anyway, I thought the argument selling candy cigarettes to children was a bad idea had pretty much carried the day… until I was on vacation this spring.
My wife and I were up in Idylwild, an artist colony near Palm Springs, California. I stopped in an old-fashioned candy store (that’s confectionery to those who could actually afford to buy something in Idylwild) and was surprised – no, shocked to see these little boxes (in California, no less!). The names had changed: they were no longer associated with any real brand, but they still had cigarette sounding names and logos reminiscent of the old brands. And inside: the same gum, the same paper, the same puff of smoke.
It gets you to thinking; if the idea that marketing cigarettes to children has come around again, what other bits from our collective “good old days” might also rear their ugly heads?