The Free Press, Mankato, MN

December 29, 2012

Ojanpa: Candy cig bans just blow smoke

By Brian Ojanpa
Free Press Staff Writer

MANKATO — Scapegoating is often the first cousin of fuzzy logic.

Which brings us to candy cigarettes, and the recent busting of a retro ma and pa soda fountain in St. Paul.

Unbeknownst to the shop owners, selling candy cigs is against the law in St. Paul. They were outlawed by the City Council in 2009 at the behest of some local teens involved in anti-smoking efforts.

Science has shown that the human brain isn’t fully developed until people reach their early 20s, so the teens can be excused for their misguided zealotry.

The City Council members, their brains presumably ensconced in adulthood, should have known better. But I’m guessing the kids’ passion and sincerity held sway over prudent governance. Hey, these things happen.

Candy cigarettes and their confectionary kin — bubble gum cigars and pouched, shredded gum resembling chewing tobacco — are among the nostalgic candy offerings of a different time.

The key word there is nostalgia, because these days about the only people desiring candy cigarettes are us graybeards, who buy them as a wistful lark along with Black Jack gum, candy buttons and those little wax bottles of sickly sweet “pop.”  

A pack of candy cigs to a contemporary 8-year-old probably has just a tad more allure than the stuck-together hard candy at great-grandma’s house.

Even so, there are skittish, wrongheaded factions among us who have no problem making a causal link between sticks of white peppermint candy and pack-a-day Marlboro smokers.

Contending that the object of a child’s sweet tooth is the gateway drug to nicotine addiction is like saying that swigging a root beer at 11 leads to downing 12-packs of Coors at 31, or eating chocolate bunnies at Easter will turn you into a rabbit-stew fiend.

Want to discourage kids from smoking in a far more effective way? Try this for starters: Cut out the gratuitous, incessant smoking scenes in movies.

Why movies? Because they’re by far the most effective covert tobacco marketing vehicle extant — and the tobacco companies know it.

In 1989 the tobacco industry banned payments for tobacco-brand product placement in films. Yet, curiously enough, the frequency of tobacco use in movies has actually increased since that self-imposed “ban” was enacted.


Sometimes, the frequency of smoking in a movie becomes almost comically over the top.

In the latest James Bond film, “Skyfall,” there are more than 20 incidences of smoking.

And more to the marketing point, it’s always the beautiful and the handsome doing the smoking. Hey, you money-under-the-table movie producers, work in a chain-smoking toothless, trailer trash type once in awhile.

Candy cigarettes as addiction precursors? Please.

But if you’re still leery about letting your child be “cool” with a candy cig in hand, buy him a pack and make it a teachable moment.

As soon as he’s done “smoking” one, stick an unfiltered Camel in his mouth, light it up and tell him to suck on it like a lollipop.

If you can think of a better anti-smoking message, let me know.


Brian Ojanpa is a Free Press staff writer. Call him at 344-6316 or email