Posts filed under ‘Health’

More Smokin’ Candy

Color me flabbergasted.

It’s the “edible Puff Pop.” It is a lollipop. And a pipe. You eat it and you smoke it. And it does not appear to be a joke.

It’s made by a New Jersey outfit called Smokeclear, Inc. You can see the press release here.

Now there have always been all kinds of candy pipes and candy cigarettes. But they were just candy. You pretended to smoke them. Pretended, get it? And maybe kids acted all cool and mature and maybe these candy smokes led to all kinds of delinquency, and maybe not. But there was no actual smoke involved.

The Puff Pop, on the other hand, is a functional smoking implement. The round lollipop has a bowl and a hole and you put your stuff in it and light it and smoke it through the hard candy. Stuff…I don’t know what, surely legal tobacco and not any other wacky weeds…

These Puff Pops have been tried and tested: the bowl won’t crack or melt when you light your stuff on fire. And they come in yummy flavors: grape, lemon/lime, green apple, blueberry cola and strawberry. It is, as the manufacturer puts it, “an edible pipe that’s user friendly.” Smokeclear expects they will sell in smoke shops, but also in convenience stores. And candy shops, no doubt.

Because that’s a good idea: edible lollipop pipes. I’ve just spent two weeks researching lollipops and their associations with children, and now this. People, WHAT are you thinking?!

Related posts:

August 2, 2010 at 8:59 am 4 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. ( 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

Lollipops from the Dentist

I went to the dentist yesterday. School is out for break, so there were kids there too. Kids with lollipops. Lollipops which they appeared to have been given by none other than the dentist.

What? For at least one hundred years, dentists have been hammering the point: candy causes cavities!

So here’s a dentist giving out a lollipop as a reward for enduring the visit. And I’m thinking, wow, this dentist is really out there. But then I took a closer look.

The lollipop was “Dr. John’s Xylitol Lollipop.” Xylitol, in case you haven’t heard, is a sugar alcohol that diminishes the effects of the bad bacteria in your mouth that lead to cavities. So in theory, the xylitol lollipop would not promote tooth decay. Dentist friendly candy! And Dr. John’s website, although it doesn’t actually say it, is obviously inviting that idea: the logo for Dr. John includes a dental mirror.

So the lollipop that kiddies get at the store is BAD. And the lollipop that comes from the dentist is GOOD. But for a kid, isn’t a lollipop a lollipop? Mixed messages, people.

And what does it mean to say only doctors can give us candy? I’m looking around and seeing gummy vitamins, gummy fiber supplements, gummy Omega-3s, this xylitol candy (which, by the way, for full cavity fighting effect, needs to be consumed  several times a day). You or your child could spend the whole day eating gummy bears and sucking lollipops, and say “but it’s not candy!” You know what? It is.

Of course, the truth is that it’s not the candy that causes cavities. It’s bacteria that feed on carbohydrates (including, but not only, sugars) that stick to your teeth. Those could come from candy, of course, but they could come from pasta, or bread, or potato chips. And just because you eat candy doesn’t mean the sugars will stick to your teeth, or that the levels of bacteria in your mouth will lead to decay.

Notice how no one ever says “bread causes cavities”? Because in our cultural lexicon of foods, bread is good, the staff of life. How could it possibly be harmful? On the other hand, “don’t eat candy” is a simple message, one that fits with our cultural suspicion of candy as pleasure for the sake of pleasure. But the big picture is a lot more complicated.

And one other thing: xylitol, like mannitol and other sugar alcohols, can have side effects. The folks at explain:

Taking more than the recommended six to eight grams for oral care may cause stomach discomfort; taking more than 40 grams a day as a sweetener might cause some people to initially experience diarrhea, but this typically subsides with continued use.

Well, if its only a little diarrhea, I guess it’s ok.

And now it’s only fair to give you a warning: Candy Professor Soapbox ahead…

Here’s what I think. Hiding candy under a medical disguise just confuses the issue. Food should be food, medicine should be medicine, candy should be candy. When we make our medicine into candy, and deny ourselves candy for its own pleasures, what have we become?

Dr. John’s Xylitol Lollipops: this is where I would put the link, but I don’t think I will. You can find them yourself if you’re looking.

March 26, 2010 at 8:30 am 2 comments

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

    Ye Olde Poison Candy

    Baby and open cupboard with toxic products

    In the early years of the twentieth century, as today, children seemed vulnerable. They ate a lot of candy. Bad candy.  Penny candies in particular were blamed for endangering children’s health with “adulterants,” non-food ingrediants including such alarming substances as furniture glue, coal tar, and all sorts of chemicals, that were clearly not meant for human consumption.

    It was obvious to every one in the 1900s that candy was dangerous. Or was it?

    In New York City in 1899, three year old Robert Wilkerson and his five year old sister Lucy fell ill, supposedly as a result of eating poisoned candy. The boy died, but a doctor who examined Lucy “thought the symptoms were more like meningitis than poisoning.”

    Two years later, the parents of two children who died blamed “candy, apples and sour milk.” The doctor had a different explaination:  “meningitis, resulting from ptomaine poisoning.”

    In 1906, the Times reported the announcement of the examining coroner who concluded that the death of a ten year old girl, Christina Klewin, “of what was supposed to be candy poisoning, was a victim of spinal meningitis.”

    And in 1914, after New York papers charged that seven year old Willie Oppenland had been killed by poison color adulterants in his candy, an autopsy revealed that he had in fact died of cerebro-spinal meningitis.

    The candy industry would spend huge amounts of money trying to combat the notion that there was something unwholesome about candy itself. The National Confectioners Association (NCA), the main candy trade group, was organized in the late 1800s with the primary goal of refuting accusations of candy adulteration and encouraging better manufacturing practices to raise the standards of the trade. Each report of “candy poisoning” was met with aggressive investigation and in most cases, alternative explanations ranging from overeating to deliberate attempts at murder.

    So far in my research, I have not encountered a single credible case of illness or death caused by shoddy or criminal candy manufacture. But that didn’t mean candy couldn’t be a killer. Here’s another version of the candy poisoning tale, this one from 1913:

    Dying from hailstones he had eaten, thinking them candy, a five-year-old boy Luther Quinn, met with an unfortunate end at South Orange NJ recently. The boy went outdoors after a storm and gathered hailstones. They looked so much like candy that we was tempted to eat them. [He died two days later due to indigestion] caused by the sudden and violent chilling of the hailstones.

    Related Posts:

  • Glue-cose
  • Laxatives and the end of Trick or Treating
  • Sources: “Two Children Poisoned,” New York Times 24 February 1899; “Another Kruger Child Dead,” New York Times 10 January 1901; “Meningitis, Not Candy Poisoning,”  New York Times 9 March 1906; “Poison Candy Charges Fail,” International Confectioner March 1914, p. 42; “Blame it on Candy,” Confectioners Journal May 1913, p. 71.

    January 11, 2010 at 7:13 am 1 comment

    Candy is for Humans, not Cows


    I have recently been learning about the virtues of grass-fed beef, milk, cheese and butter. Industrial meat has always made me a little queasy. Here’s one more reason to choose and support farms that feed cows the food cows were meant to eat.

    Close-up of a person's hands putting Gummy bears into a packet

    In an item titled “Feedlot Cattle Fattened on Stale Gummy Bears,” the website EatWild exposes the sticky underside of commerical cattle feedlot practices. It turns out that alongside bakery scraps and plate scrapings and ground up who knows what, some commercial feedlots are feeding stale candy to cattle in an effort to reduce costs.

    Here’s what a recent report by a University of Wisconsin Extension Nutritionist has to say about candy in dairy cattle diets:

    Milk chocolate and candy are often economical sources of nutrients, particularly fat. They may be high in sugar and/or fat content. Milk chocolate and candy may contain 48% and 22% fat, respectively. They are sometimes fed in their wrappers. Candies, such as cull gummy bears, lemon drops, or gum drops are high in sugar content. … Upper feeding limits for candy or candy blends and chocolate are 5 and 2 lb. per cow per day, respectively.

    Needless to say, all that candy is not so good for the cows. Cows, as you may recall from fourth grade, are vegetarian ruminants: they are designed to eat grass and similar “rough” vegetative matter, which they chew and digest slowly. When cows eat grass, the vegetable nutrients are transformed into essential fats and proteins in the milk and muscle. When cows eat candy, there’s less of that good nutrition in their meat. It’s still calories, but not much else.

    Candy should not be part of a nutritious cow breakfast, or lunch or dinner for that matter. As for us humans, some candy every so often seems quite fine.

    PS. I recently had my first taste of “raw” cow’s milk from pastured cows, cold but fresh, unprocessed and pure. WOW. Doesn’t need candy or sugar, it is sweet and delicious all on its own.

    Source: reporting on “By-Product Feedstuffs in Dairy Cattle Diets in the Upper Midwest” Randy D. Shaver, Ph.D. Associate Professor, Extension Nutritionist, Department of Dairy Science, College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, University of Wisconsin.  Link:

    January 6, 2010 at 7:33 am 10 comments

    Eat More Candy! or not?

    Extreme close-up of mid adult woman eating a chocolate candy bar

    Happy New Year! If your New Year’s Resolutions include a more nutritious diet, you are probably planning to cut down on candy.

    Of course, in different times there have been different ideas about nutrition. Early food science in the late nineteenth century introduced the idea of the “calorie” as a measure of the energy content of food, and recognized three major components of the diet: protein, fat, and carbohydrate.Back in the early 1900s, this food science provided an outstanding rationale for eating more candy.

    For example, one food expert wrote:

    It will be seen that candy has a high energy value–higher than meat, fish and vegetables. From a laboratory point of view, half a pound of chocolate creams, supplemented by a small bag of peanuts, contain all the dietetic elements that are essential for a wholesome and nourishing day’s diet. Three meals can be obtained from the chocolates and peanuts, and the body’s needs be met and the appetite satisfied.

    The craving for sweets also could be framed in scientific terms suggested by ideas of “instinct” and evolutionary utility. A physician offered this explanation:

    Sweets are the necessities of childhood and youth, hence Providence has wisely implanted in the young an insatiable desire for sugar. Without this element largely mingled with its food the healthiest born infant would die in a month. In vain would it nestle on its mother’s bosom, in vain its exposure to the warm sunshine, and in vain the softest blankets and warmest furs to encase its body. For the warmth which sustains human life comes from within, and must be generated by the internal combustion of carbonaceous food as found in all sweets and fats. It is the most inveterate of all prejudices in civilized life that sweets hurt children. On the contarary, they are a prime necessity, and to deprive them of those, if made pure, is downright barbarism.

    Where science led, advertising followed. One candy shop asked:

    Are you eating Candy Enough? The hunger for sweets is natural. The normal man or woman who is not eating a reasonable amount of candy daily is not being properly fed. Recognizing the wholesomeness of the candy DEMAND, we have equipped our store to meet it with a wholesome SUPPLY.

    For us in the twenty-first century, candy is clearly an indulgence, a treat, a little something extra. But the story of candy in the twentieth century was often dominated by a struggle to persuade or prove otherwise, that candy was wholesome and nutritious food. Is it?

    Sources: “Pure Candy is Healthful–Sound the Slogan,” Confectioners Journal Oct 1916, p. 86; “Infancy Dependent Upon Sweets,” Confectioners Journal May 1915, p. 68; Viedts advertisement, Confectioners Journal October 1916, p. 83.
    Related Posts:

  • The Chocolate Cure
  • Creed for Candy
  • Candy Lunch Bars
  • January 4, 2010 at 8:17 am 2 comments

    Older Posts Newer Posts

    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.

    (C) Samira Kawash

    All written contents protected by copyright. Except where noted, Candy Professor is my original research, based on archives, journals, magazines, newspapers, and other historical artifacts. You do not have permission to copy or re-post my content. If you want to refer to my work, please create a link from the blog entry and also write out the citation:
    Samira Kawash, "entry name,", entry date.

    If you would like to copy, re-post, or reproduce my work, please contact me for permission.


    Header Image Credit