Dakota Datebook

Candy Cigarettes

Friday, March 14, 2014


At the turn of the twentieth century, candy makers introduced a new product into the American market – candy cigarettes.  Parents and shopkeepers saw no harm in the powdery sweet sticks that were sold in replica cardboard cigarette cartons; children enjoyed mimicking all sorts of adult behaviors, so it only seemed natural that it would extend to cigarettes.  Besides, they were made of sugar, so what harm could there possibly be?

In 1900, when the candy versions were introduced, 2.5 billion cigarettes were being consumed in the United States, or roughly 54 cigarettes for each adult over the age of eighteen.  By 1920, when the children who grew up smoking the candy version were now adults, that number had increased 1800%.  Smoking’s popularity continued to grow until the 1950s, when medical professionals finally began to link smoking to health problems and the Surgeon General labeled them as harmful.  Suddenly, buying candy cigarettes for your children didn’t sound like such a great idea.

Although several countries banned the candy versions and many American states and cities considered bans, North Dakota is the only U.S. state in history to issue a full ban on selling candy cigarettes, which it passed on this date in 1953.  North Dakota Senate Bill 153 claimed that children were confused and deceived by the imitation cigarettes, as well as their labeling and packaging, and that such deception “…enticed children to use actual cigarettes and tobacco products.”  Violators of the ban faced a maximum fine of $1000 and 90 days in jail.

The first challenge to the ban came in Bismarck in December of 1962 when one store owner was arrested for selling the candy cigarettes. Although the ban was upheld, it was ultimately repealed after a 1967 challenge.  Today, candy cigarettes are difficult to find.  A 2007 study by the University of Rochester definitively linked the candy to later smoking in adulthood.  Since then, many stores refuse to carry them, including national retailers such as Wal-Mart.

But it was North Dakota that “recognized the harm in marketing tobacco products to youth in the early 1950s, well before the marketing strategy of the tobacco industry was fully understood.”


Dakota Datebook written by Jayme L. Job



American Lung Association Research and Program Services: Epidemiology and Statistics Unit.  July   2011.  Trends in Tobacco Use: Tables 2 and 8.  American Lung Association.

Lloyd, Robin.  2007  “Study Links Candy Cigarettes to Smoking,” LiveScience.           (http://www.livescience.com/1635-study-links-candy-cigarettes-smoking.html)

Welle, Jennifer R. et al.  2004.   Tobacco Control Policy Making in North Dakota: A Tradition of      Activism: pp. 33-34.  U.S. Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education:  University of            California, San Francisco.



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Dakota Datebook is a project of Prairie Public, in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, with funding from the North Dakota Humanities Council.

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