Candy Cigarettes -- Playing with Fire

Do you remember those bubble gum cigarettes that you chewed as a kid? No, I'm not talking about the sticks of gum that came in a pack made to look like a pack of cigarettes. I'm talking about the bubble gum that actually looked like a cigarette. It was shaped into a slim, cylindrical tube and wrapped in white paper with a slim tan band at one end. I remember how much my siblings and I loved those bubble gum cigarettes. Getting a pack in a party goody bag or being given one by an aunt or grandparent was an extremely rare treat, to be savored and enjoyed.

I haven't seen bubble gum cigarettes since I was a little girl, but today I entered a novelty / art store in downtown Truckee and saw this:

Not bubble gum, but close. Talk about a blast from the past! The shop owner said she had to buy them in Canada because they don't sell these in the US. I can sort of see why: gag or no gag, that "Just Like Dad" catchphrase is not exactly one you want associated with cigarettes. In case you can't see the words on the display box, the little boy is actually asking his dad, "Hey dad, can I bum a smoke?".

And how about this alternative packaging choice? It's hard to believe that there was once a time when cigarette companies actually had doctors endorsing their products, but studies didn't start linking smoking and lung cancer until the 1940's and 1950's, and it wasn't until 1964 that the US Surgeon General actually concluded that "cigarette smoking is a cause of lung and laryngeal cancer in men, a probable cause of lung cancer in women, and the most important cause of chronic bronchitis in both sexes".

What the tobacco companies knew is another story, but the general public, at least, really didn't know any better. In those days, everyone smoked, even doctors. Alfie's parents smoked. So did my parents (my dad is a doctor). And letting kids pretend to be grown-ups by giving them pretend cigarettes was just like me buying a toy oven for The Pea.

Well, we do know better now.

The Pea begged me and begged me to buy her a pack of the Just Like Dad candy cigarettes. I was really tempted, because I remember how much my siblings and I loved those bubblegum cigarettes (and besides, I wanted to see what that "Refreshing Orange Flavor" tasted like) -- but in the end, I just couldn't do it. I remember putting that bubble gum cigarette in my mouth, pretending to take a drag and feeling all cool and grown-up. It doesn't matter that I never took up smoking despite all that pretend play, and I don't care if it's just a gag product or a nostalgia product. I was just not comfortable letting my daughter pretend to smoke.

Do you think I overreacted?


Ed said...

No you did not. Early 80s I heard radio editorial about this. He said what's next ? Candy birth control pills? Great post cuz.

Anonymous said...

Interesting. I always bought those candy cigarettes with my allowance (along with lots of other candy). I actually tried to start smoking when I was a teen. I suppose I did it to be cool but luckily I couldn't stand the taste and it gave me a headache so it never became an addiction, thank goodness. Because had it tasted like the candy cigarettes...