You Won’t See It On Candy Store Shelves – Bubble Gum Cigarettes
If you grew up before 1980 it was common to see this package at many candy shops, drug stores and supermarkets – bubble gum cigarettes. And yes, they were intended for children. There were also chocolate cigarettes and hard candy cigarettes, also marketed to children.
I must have “smoked” over a couple of hundred packs during my childhood.
Somehow it didn’t corrupt me or make me crave a cigarette. As a matter of fact I’ve never smoked a cigarette in my life.
Shaped as a cigarette with paper covering the gum, it was a way for kids to look and act like adults. The way it was displayed, was it obviously bubble gum? Only if you looked at the top and side of the packages.
For any kid, the best thing about the bubble gum cigarettes was that they had a fine coating of powdered sugar around them. If you put a stick of gum in your mouth without removing the paper and blew into it, the powder would come out of the end looking like smoke! How cool was that?
The reason the powdered sugar is there is to keep the gum from sticking to the paper.
The bubble gum packaging was not just “Salem” as shown above but many brands. The bubble gum cigarettes were made to do imitate the real thing and were emblazoned with the name and package design of real cigarettes.
If cigarette companies actually conspired with the chewing gum companies to entice kids to smoke, there has never been any evidence that has come to light supporting that theory. The truth is much simpler. Gum companies saw the potential in having kids mimic adult behaviors. Smoking was considered cool when Edward Fenimore Sr. of the Philadelphia Chewing Gum Co. introduced bubble gum cigarettes around 1955.
The bubble gum itself? Once you peeled off the paper and started chewing it… well it lost all its flavor in about two minutes. You’d spit it out within three. On a Pavlovian level if they were trying to entice kids to smoke they should have made the gum taste better.
Bubble gum cigarettes were everywhere from the mid-1950s until the anti-smoking movement spread during the 1970s and 80s. Cigarettes were banned from advertising and eventually all related tobacco-iana became very unpopular, including the bubble gum variety.
Bubble gum cigarettes are frequently in the cross-hairs of concerned groups and studies which link them to becoming a future smoker.
You can still buy bubble gum cigarettes from online outlets, but they are carried by few brick and mortar stores. The difference now is the packaging which features brands that are not named for real cigarettes.
Bubble gum cigarettes have never been banned in the United States though there are always calls to do so. They are outlawed in come countries such as Finland, Brazil, Norway, and no surprise, Turkey and Saudi Arabia (where it’s okay to murder journalists, but not have candy or bubble gum cigarettes?)
Try handing these out to kids on Halloween and see what happens. Oh, you’d stir up some trouble. Friends. We’ve got trouble. Right here in New York City. With a capital B and that rhymes with G and that stands for bubble gum.
What’s next for companies – trying to entice kids to jool? Never.