You may recall a recent post here at Candy Professor about an old time, long gone candy idea called the “Candy Feeding Bag” that involved sucking flavored powder through a licorice straw. Candy diva Cybele May commented that such an apparatus seemed more about choking hazards and coughing fits than about candy taste. This seemed funny to me, and even funnier when Cybele informed me that kids are doing just that: inhaling, and puffing, and even snorting candy powder, made from smashed up Smarties.
No fire is involved. The smoking is more of a special effect. The point, it seems, is to create the effect of blowing smoke with candy powder. Some talented kids can even blow out their noses and make smoke rings (an impressive talent, but one, I fear, that will not likely get them into Harvard). Since we at Candy Professor are committed to documenting and preserving the cultural candy record, we take up smoking Smarties now, albeit belatedly.
Why, why, why, would kids want to inhale or snort sour candy powder? What is wrong with these kids today?
OK, I know one good reason: it drives certain adults crazy. And another reason, unique to our age: you can get 60,000 hits on YouTube and find yourself featured on FoxNews if you perfect your technique. (Did I mention about how this probably won’t look so great on your college applications? Listen to the Professor, kids.)
Because even if it’s just “pretend smoking,” it looks like a gateway to the real thing, which is definitely not good. OK, I’ll say it: Kids, don’t smoke. But let’s face it. As long as adults have been smoking, kids have been smoking. From that perspective, we should be thankful for those candy cigarettes and chocolate cigars that started showing up at the local candy shop in the 1890s. At least those didn’t foul up the air or blacken your lungs.
Eventually adults started realizing that kids’ smoking was kind of a bad idea. And those candy cigarettes? Obviously sending the wrong message. They were not quite outlawed, but serious pressure from the FTC around 1966-67 helped the tobacco companies and their candy allies to see that maybe a lower candy cigarette profile would be a good idea. Candy cigarettes with packaging imitating popular brands like Camel and Marlboro continued to be sold at kiddie candy counters well into the 1970s. You have to look harder these days, but candy cigarettes have never been made illegal, and in fact there is a wide array of candy versions of cigarettes and cigars to be had, if you know where to look.
In the 2000s, though, everybody knows to teach the kiddies that smoking is bad, and there are no candy or bubble gum cigarettes at your local CVS. We’ve got the education, the anti-smoking ads, the negative reputation of smoking, and we took away the candy cigs. And still: those blasted kids are pretending to smoke! This time around, instead of the pressed sugar to look like the actual cigarette, it’s pulverized candy to look like the smoke.
Now, I remember hazily my high school days, and if I recall correctly, we tried smoking all kinds of things. I’m talking banana peels, oregeno, eraser rubbings. All perfectly legal, of course. And needless to say, I didn’t inhale. But kids trying to smoke stuff, or light stuff on fire, or create the effect of smoking, well, it’s not a new thing.
In fact, these Smarties smokers aren’t playing with matches. And no one thinks there is anything remotely drug-like in the Smarties that would make anybody “high.” Kind of a nerdy version of bad-a** behavior, when you think about it. The worst that happens is coughing and irritation. Although some doctors speculated you could end up with maggots in your nose, feeding on the sugar powder….
The real victim here is the beleaguered Ce De Candy company, makers of Smarties and… oh, just Smarties. But they come in lots of flavors. Smarties are one of those classic American candies, going back to 1949. And they have a cute web site.
Already, Smarties had a reputation as the kind of candy you give out at Halloween if you’re really cheap and you really don’t like kids. Now this. Eric Ostrow, Ce De vice president for sales and marketing, sounded a little mournful when the Wall Street Journal asked him about all the attention:
It could be done with anything made with sugar and compressed — Necco Wafers, Conversation Hearts, SweeTarts. Lik-M-Aid is already pulverized and so is Pixy Stix. I don’t want to be complimented that we’re the No. 1 choice.
But it’s pretty funny. You can blow Smarties smoke to look like you’re smoking when you’re not, or you can suck on one of those new Camel Orbs, so no one will know you’re smoking when actually you are. Crazy world.
Related Post: Tobacco Candy
Smarties Image: Uploaded by Wikipedia user CoolKid1993 under CC. Sources: “Goddard Suggests Candy Cigarettes Be Discontinued,” New York Times June 15, 1966; Jocelyn Elders, Preventing Tobacco Abuse Among Young People, a Report of the Surgeon General, “Candy Cigarettes” (171-172); Dionne Searcy, “Just Say No….to Smarties? Faux Smoking Has Parents Fuming,” Wall Street Journal, March 20, 2009. Around the Blogs: Cybele reviews Giant Smarties at candyblog.net; Richard reviews candy cigarettes at The Bewildered Brit.