As a child growing up in the early 70’s, I was surrounded by adults who smoked. Besides my parents, extended family, and neighbors, the actors and actresses on the television were smokers too. Everywhere you went, there were ashtrays and vending machines full of the major brands. Thinking back on this, I’m not really surprised that one of my favorite kets was candy cigarettes.
Kids could buy them at the convenience store right there with the other candy. They came in paper boxes that were printed to look like the real name brand cigarettes that our parents smoked. Winstons were my favorite because that was Dad’s brand. You got 10 in a box and the ends were painted red to look like they were lit. These white sticks were pure sugar and would melt in your mouth rather quickly. It was easy to finish a pack while you walked back home from the store.
All the neighborhood kids I played with, enjoyed “smoking” these candy sticks and pretending they were cool. I remember how we would mimic the way adults would hold the real things between two fingers and pretend to blow out smoke.
According to our class discussion about kets, these candies belong exclusively to children and have the power to disgust adults. In the case of candy cigarettes, kids felt empowered by pretending to engage in a forbidden behavior that was reserved for adults. It made parents real uncomfortable if you “smoked” in front of them, and there was always some comment about how you better never take up the real habit.
A 2006 Harris Poll Online survey claims that children who grew up eating candy cigarettes were more likely to become adult smokers. I personally disagree and feel it was simply a way for children to act out their fantasies about how it might look and feel to be older.