Posts filed under ‘Candy and Addiction’

News Brief: Renegade Pharmacist Foils Addict Plot with M&Ms

If you are a pharmacist in Edmonton, Oklahoma it seems your job is just a little more complicated.

Among the fair citizens of Edmonton, as alas in many cities throughout our fair land, there is a significant addict population. And big on the addict’s list of highs is hydrocodone, a powerful and legal pain killer commonly known as Vicodin.

If it’s hydrocodone you’re craving, there is a place where such compounds may be found quite easily. The pharmacy. Of course, you can’t just walk in and say “Excuse me, I’d like my hydrocodone, please.” Number one, it’s by prescription only. And number two, it’s a controlled substance.

So the best way is just to break in and steal the stuff. Which was happening in an particular Edmonton pharmacy. Again, and again, and again. This is where candy comes in.

Having lost more than he could bear to addict break-ins, the Edmonton pharmacist said ENOUGH! He took the hydrocodone out of the bottles. And instead, he put in M&Ms.

Now, M&Ms are unlikely to get anyone high. (Except the red ones, allegedly.) But they do make a nice sound in a pill bottle when you shake it. Evidently, that’s enough if you’re a burglarizing addict in search of a fix.

So when the burglar broke in, AGAIN, last Sunday night, all he got was chocolate.

On the other hand, between the euphoric effects of chocolate and the placebo effect, maybe the jonesing addict didn’t even notice…

Read the abc.com report, or better, watch it here:

July 11, 2010 at 12:42 pm Leave a comment

Smoking Smarties

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.

Whaaaa? Yes, it may not be news to you, but it came as news to me: last spring (that’s 2009), teens were doin’ it: “smoking” pulverized 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 (for example, CandyFavorites.com sells them).

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.

May 5, 2010 at 10:10 am 14 comments

Tobacco Candy

So now we have tobacco candy: Camel Orbs, a compressed tobacco tablet that tastes and looks like a breath mint. Orbs delivers nicotine. So does nicotine gum. But unlike nicotine gums, Orbs contains tobacco. More important, Orbs is meant to take the place of a cigarette, not to help you quit.

Orbs have been test marketed in select states for a few months, but now they have caught the attention of the FDA. In a Feb. 1 letter to R.J. Reynolds, the director of the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products (CTP) expressed concern “that children and adolescents may find dissolvable tobacco products particularly appealing, given the brightly colored packaging, candy-like appearance and easily concealable size of many of these products.” (reported here)

The FDA’s worry has two parts: one, that tobacco packaged as candy encourages young people to take up smoking. And two, that the candy-like appearance of products like Orbs might appeal to children and endanger them if they think it is actually candy. It’s that second idea that has pitched Orbs into the newspapers this past week. Pediatrics, a medical journal, published a study on April 19, 2010 detailing the risks of nicotine poisoning to children who accidentally eat Orbs and similar candy-like tobacco products. Since then, the news media has been abuzz with news and debate about this latest salvo in the tobacco wars. (msnbc.com coverage here; New York Times article here; Q&A from The Week here).

Despite everything we know about the dangers of tobacco, smoking is legal, and other tobacco products are legal, but only if you’re over 18. We’ve decided as a society that nicotine use and addiction is tolerable for adults, but not for children. Like alcohol, nicotine is a recreational drug that our society tolerates within certain limits. But while adults are deemed competent to choose drug use, children generally are not. So the concern that children will confuse candy, which they can have, with nicotine, which they cannot have, is understandable.

The worries about Orbs, though, seem uniquely contradictory. On the one hand, there is the worry that children will accidentally ingest a dangerous drug disguised as candy.  On the other hand, there is the worry that children will conceal their drug abuse by hiding these little candy-like packages and discretely popping nicotine pills under the guise of enjoying a breath freshener.

So are children innocent victims, or pathological drug-abusers? Somehow, when it comes to candy, they are both.

The combination of candy and children has always carried with it an intertwined idea of innocence and corruption. Candy and children seem to go together naturally: children find candy irresistible, and candy, especially simple sugar candy, is for the kids. But if children can’t resist candy, there is something disturbing about that desire. Candy is a lure, a trap, that draws children in. And hidden behind candy’s sweet surface is something potentially harmful, something perhaps deadly. In the 1890s, it was “adulterants” like glue and clay that would harm candy eating children. In the 1970s, it was razor blades hiding in the Halloween candy. In every decade, there have been stories of children “poisoned” by something in the candy they eat.

Candy, it seems, is always concealing something dangerous, let’s call it “factor X.”  Every era has its own “factor X,” but the historical continuity of candy danger tells us that alarms about candy poisonings, whether due to artificial colors or nicotine, are not entirely connected to the actual, measured danger. The image of poison candy is a powerful one: candy is innocence, and the hidden poison, whatever it is, is the seed of corruption.

The latest “factor X” is tobacco, or nicotine. As the tobacco industry defenders have insisted, the actual danger posed by Orbs in the household is pretty minor compared with all the other hazards to the unsupervised child, cleansers, medicines, and the like. The packaging for Orbs and related products is claimed to be child-proof, and the product is sold with warnings, just like aspirin or cold medicine. The latest report suggests something like 600 children a year experience “mild nicotine poisoning.” Hypothetically, if a very young child were to eat a lot of these candies, it could be lethal. But we could say that about a lot of ordinary substances, starting with aspirin. This too is part of the historical pattern: in every era, the intensity of coverage of alleged candy poisoning is far in excess of the actual incidence of real harm.

The other charge critics make is that R.J. Reynolds is involved in a deliberate attempt to appeal to children and hook them on tobacco at a young age. The implication seems to be, if it’ s candy, it must be for children. Although the form of this tobacco candy is  more like Tic Tacs, which kids don’t particularly go for, and not like, say, Sour Warhead Gummis.

R.J. Reynolds knows very well that tobacco is only allowed for adults. If they make a tobacco candy, it is not because they expect to profit from illegal or accidental sales to children. They expect to profit from legal and successful marketing and sales to adults. It is adults who are seen as wanting a “candy” drug, a drug made to seem innocuous because it takes the form of a candy. In today’s youth obsessed culture, the marketing of this product as hip and cool and fun seems aimed at 20 and 30-somethings (it reminds me of the new Wonka campaign). When we have generations of “kiddults” still acting and living like teens, I’m not sure that such marketing indicates a sinister plot to capture kids, as critics have charged, so much as it points out how confused we have become about the differences between adults and children.

I suspect that a lot of the clamor against the idea of tobacco candy has quite a lot to do with our deep Puritan moralism when it comes to drugs and pleasure. If people are going to be addicted to tobacco, they should suffer for it. The idea that there is a benign, pleasant, socially acceptable way to get your tobacco fix seems just wrong.

Transforming a cigarette into a breath mint seems a brilliant solution for a tobacco industry threatened by changing perceptions of their key product. Cigarette smoking has become almost intolerable in many places in our society, and cigarette smokers the new pariahs. Smoking causes premature aging, wrinkles, death. But candy? Candy is about fun, and innocence, and youth. If you could trade in the reviled cigarette for an innocent candy, wouldn’t you?

These days, a lot of smokers would rather not be “smokers.” Everybody, smokers especially, knows how cigarettes damage your body and your health, as well as, in many cases, your career and your social life.  Tobacco candy seems the ideal solution: pleasant tasting, no body is bothered, no embarrassing scene of sucking on a “cancer stick” outside the office building. And as candy, that most innocuous of substances, alternatives like Orbs seem perfectly safe. It’s easy to forget that it’s still tobacco, and still carries significant risks of gum cancer, mouth cancer, and heart disease.

Tobacco candy is just the latest entry in the race to turn everything into candy. When it’s calcium candy or fiber candy or xylitol candy, everybody seems pretty happy. But when it’s tobacco candy, we can begin to discern the problems of making candy something other than candy. Tobacco candy is potentially harmful in a way that calcium candy probably is not, to be sure. But tobacco candy is really just the dark cousin of those more benign drug-candies. Drugs and poisons get mixed in a confusing stew with pleasures and the appearance of innocence.

So far, the test marketing of Orbs hasn’t been very successful. Anecdotal reports from test markets suggest slow sales, and there are no current plans for a national roll-out. It may just be the case that most tobacco users prefer to keep tobacco a little less pleasant, a little less candy like. It may not be as good as quitting, but at least it’ s honest.

April 23, 2010 at 10:35 am 7 comments

Chocolate, Chocolate All the While

Here’s a cute poem published in the Confectioners Journal in 1910:

“The Chocolate Kids”

Goodness! What will keep these children quiet?
Folks go crazy at the riot.
We feed them candy, cakes and pie,
The more they get the more they cry.
What can have brought from tears relief?
The reason is, in words quite brief—
The only thing to make them smile
Is chocolate, chocolate, all the while!

Is it chocolate, chocolate all the while for you, too?

Even back in the 1900s, folks had a notion of the “addictive” qualities of chocolate. Take this example: following the 1909 National Confectioners Association annual convention in Detroit, rumors were flying that the candy makers were worried about the effects of a proposed duty on the cocoa bean. They though, papers reported, that higher prices for chocolate might mean consumers would turn to other, cheaper kinds of candy.

Nonsense! countered the Confectioners Journal. The secret of chocolate is this:

Chocolates serve as their own relish. The girl who has eaten one chocolate bonbon craves another. She craves in a still more active way after consuming the second and continues with uniformly accelerated craving until she has exhausted the boxful… There is a limit to one’s appetite for all confections save chocolates.

Sounds like chocolate addiction to me!

It wasn’t just girls who kept the chocolate makers in business. But this image of women’s weakness for chocolate is still with us today. If you’ve seen those Dove Chocolate indulgence ads, you’ll get a hint of the reason. Women savoring chocolate is a pretty sensual image. We can imagine the Victorian sensibility of 1909 being titillated and fascinated by the image of a woman getting pleasure over and over by eating and eating that box of chocolates.

Are women really naturally addicted to chocolate? Personally, my weakness is candy corn.

Sources: “The Chocolate Kids,” Confectioners Journal July 1910, p. 124; “Laments,” Confectioners Journal July 1909, p. 109.

March 29, 2010 at 12:41 pm 1 comment

Fruits, Candies, and Lydia Pinkham’s Vegetable Compound

Some time ago, when I was poking around in the dusty archives looking for candy cookbooks with recipes for vegetable candy, I came across a curious item: Fruits and Candies, a recipe booklet from the early 1900s. It was published as a promotion for Lydia E. Pinkham’s Vegetable Compound, a popular women’s  “medicinal tonic” in the early 1900s consisting of various herbs and alcohol (18-20 percent,  stronger than a big California Cabernet but about half as strong as Bacardi white rum).

This booklet features two sorts of entries: recipes for candies and sweet fruit desserts, and testimonials from ladies whose “female complaints” have been cured by a regular dosing with the Vegetable Compound. So one page offers a recipe for Maple Fondant, followed by a testimonial on the sorrows of childlessness and their alleviation with Lydia Pinkham’s. Another page gives instructions for Buttercups and Molasses Candy, and then a discursus on Painful Monthly Periods and the use of Vegetable Compound to alleviate them.

What struck me when I first saw this booklet was the complete strangeness of this juxtaposition.  I filed this away under “hmmm.” Surely this odd combination must mean something, but what it meant I couldn’t yet fathom.

Now I think I have a much better idea. I have been reading about the “pure food” reformers of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, and particularly the women’s groups that organized against alcohol, drug abuse, and tainted food. These are the grass roots activists whose efforts brought us both Prohibition (something of a catastrophe) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (the FDA–not perfect, but one of the better consumer protection success stories of our time).

One big worry of many reformers in that era was the “patent” medicines: tonics and concoctions made of who-knows-what, peddled in carts and storefronts and by mail, and often containing narcotics (morphine, laudenum, cocaine, alcohol) that led the unsuspecting user who was just looking for a little “pick-me-up” down the merry path of addiction and ruin. The abuse of what the reformers called “habit-forming poisons” was not the intentional and direct narcotic abuse of opium dens or seamy city streets. Customers for the patent formulas were fancy ladies looking for a boost after a night on the town, exhausted mothers just trying to cope, women considered “nervous” or “weak” who saw in the tonics a cure for the mysterious ailments of femininity.

So one thing the Fruits and Candies booklet tells us is that the “target market” for Lydia Pinkham’s Vegetable Compound was just those middle class women with the leisure and inclination to dabble in home confections.  Somehow, these same women were the ones with numerous and sundry female complaints. And this is the interesting part, to me at least: the connection between middle class leisure, feminine complaint, and confectionery.

The reformers looked at Lidia Pinkham and the rest and saw addictive potions that would only make things worse. What these women needed was fresh air, good food, and exercise, not 20 percent alcohol “tonics.” One reformer in particular stands out: Ella Kellogg (1853-1920). Ella was the wife of Dr. John Harvey Kellogg (he who brought us corn flakes breakfast cereal), and like her husband she took a strong interest in the importance of good nutrition. Ella believed that it was just those dainty confections that were causing all that nervous female illness. For Ella Kellogg, it was poor nutrition that led to the complaints that caused women to seek relief in the tonics.

Lydia Pinkham’s Vegetable Compound and candy-making: to Ella Kellogg, the connection would have been quite clear. All that candy eating was making women sick, and sick women were turning to Lydia Pinkham’s Vegetable Compound. To the innocent eye, Fruits and Candies is just advertising packaged to appeal to women by including women’s recipes. To Ella Kellogg and her sisters-in-arms, Fruits and Candies was everything that was wrong with American women.

Related Posts:

  • Candy Cook Books: Where have they Gone?
  • Home Made vs. Store Bought Candy
  • .
    More: You can browse a full digitized version of Fruits and Candies at Duke University Special Collections. For more on Ella Kellogg’s views of the relation between nutrition and the “patent” medicines so popular in the late nineteenth century, see Lorine Swainston Goodwin, The Pure Food, Drink, and Drug Crusaders, 1879-1914 (1999) (Sorry, this one is a paper book only, no link. Aren’t you glad we still have actual libraries? I am).

    Image source: Vanderbilt Medical Center, via Wikipedia.

    March 10, 2010 at 8:22 am Leave a comment


    Candy: A Century of Panic and Pleasure

    Welcome to Candy Professor

    Candy in American Culture What is it about candy? Here you'll find the forgotten, the strange, the curious, the surprising. Our candy story, one post at a time.

    Samira Kawash, PhD
    Professor Emerita,
    Rutgers University

    (C) Samira Kawash

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