Children and Cigarettes

May 6, 2020

A new exhibition by The University of Alabama Center for the Study of Tobacco and Society shows the use of children in tobacco advertising during the past century.

The online exhibition, Kids, Candy, n’ Cigarettes, is drawn from the center’s Children and Tobacco Collection and can be found on the center’s website. The center is housed in UA’s College of Community Health Sciences.

The Children and Tobacco collection and Kids, Candy, n’ Cigarettes exhibition include visual and written documentation of: candy cigarette, cigar and chewing tobacco products; toy cigarette lighters; candy cigarette vending machines; vintage postcards showing children smoking; cigarette advertisements in magazines that contain images of children; and newspaper, magazine and medical journal articles about the promotion and use of candy cigarettes in the U.S. in the 1980s and 1990s.

Kevin Bailey, collection manager and digital archivist for the center, said while advertising featured children, other products were specifically aimed at children.

The exhibition details how sweets shops in the U.S. in the late 19th Century began selling chocolate treats packaged in boxes resembling those of actual cigarettes. By the 1950s, the Philadelphia Bubble Gum Corporation of Havertown, Pennsylvania, was nationally distributing a line of bubble-gum cigarettes with the same names of real cigarettes.

“Candy cigarettes enticed children to play along and imitate their parents,” Bailey said. “And there were of course toys, such as the cigarette bank, which mimicked cigarette vending machines.”

In the 1980s, these products began disappearing as public pressure led tobacco companies to protect their cigarette brands from being used by candy companies. But by that time, arcade video games were becoming popular among children and it wasn’t long before tobacco companies began targeting young people by advertising in those games, Bailey said. Anti-smoking activists again led efforts to remove cigarette advertisements embedded in video games, such as Super Monaco GP, which simulated the televised Formula One, Indy Car and NASCAR races and contained cigarette brand logos on billboards, racecars and drive uniforms.

Bailey said while youth smoking has currently declined, there are “concerns about other addictions, such as electronic cigarette use, still adversely affecting young people.”