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Candy cigarettes tempt kids to smoke

With their sweet taste, candy-shaped cigarettes may make kids think favourably about smoking, says a study.

health and fitness Updated: Jun 19, 2007 13:34 IST

You may think that there’s nothing wrong with giving your kids candy shaped like cigarettes, but a new study shows that you need to think twice before doing so, as these candies desensitise children to the harm of smoking.

The study also suggests that candy cigarettes may make kids think favourably about smoking, and make lead to them taking up the habit in later life.

As a part of the study, the researchers analysed a sample of 25,887 US adults.

Among these, 12 percent was made of those who had never consumed candy cigarettes in current and former smokers, as well as 22 percent in never smokers.

The corresponding percentages of adults who had regularly (often or very often) consumed candy cigarettes were 22 percent in current and former smokers versus 14 per cent in never smokers.

Dr Klein, the corresponding author on the study said that the findings has shown that cigarette shaped candy and gum expose kids to the habit of smoking long before they are old enough to take up the butt.

“Candy and gum look-alike products allow children to respond to tobacco marketing and advertising long before they are old enough to smoke a cigarette,” he said.

“The continued existence of these products helps promote smoking as a culturally or socially acceptable activity,” he added.

While countries including the UK, Australia, and Canada currently restrict candy cigarette sales, US federal and all but one state legislative efforts at banning candy cigarettes have been unsuccessful (the one exception was later repealed).

Ironically, it appears that the responsibility for restricting candy cigarette sales in the US has been left up to large national retailers such as the

Wal-Mart chain, which has a company-wide policy banning the sale of cigarette look-alike products to minors in all 50 states. Candy cigarettes are made of candy or gum, shaped into cylindrical sticks and sold in rectangular boxes roughly the size of cigarette packs.

In the US they are typically displayed next to the bubble gum and the trading cards commonly sold in supermarkets and convenience stores.

Make-believe cigarette smoking may be considered illicit and mature by some children, but research suggests that playing with these edible “toys” cannot be considered as a benign parody of cigarette smoking.

This new research is built on past research, such as focus groups in the US with 4 to 11 year-old children and a survey of 7th graders which indicated that playing with candy cigarettes may actually desensitize children to the harm of real smoking.

The study appears in the July issue of Preventive Medicine.

First Published: Jun 19, 2007 12:09 IST