Tobacco Industry Saw Benefit in Promoting Candy Cigarettes

Physician says documents reveal hidden truth behind popular candy

August 02, 2000

Previously secret internal tobacco industry documents reveal cooperation between the manufacturers of tobacco and candy cigarettes intended to promote smoking by children, according to a study to be published in the August 4 issue of the British Medical Journal. The study will be outlined during a conference sponsored by the journal in Chicago on Friday.

Jonathan Klein, M.D., of Children's Hospital at Strong, and Steve St. Clair, J.D., an attorney from Iowa, analyzed 153 documents that mention candy cigarettes that were made available from the tobacco-industry settlement with the state attorneys general. They show that the tobacco industry has long regarded candy cigarettes as good advertising to lure future smokers, and that tobacco companies enabled confectioners to design and market candy products that clearly mimic cigarettes.

"This analysis - the first of its kind - provides evidence that tobacco companies recognized the connection between candy cigarettes in young children's hands and real cigarettes in young smokers' hands," Klein says. "Additionally, the candy manufacturers concealed facts and tried to manipulate their own scientific research findings to protect this highly effective promotional tool."

Despite warnings to tobacco companies to withdraw candy products in packs "so real looking it's startling," the industry continued to permit trademark infringements, the authors say. They also contend that efforts by tobacco companies to stop confectioners from selling candy cigarettes in packs resembling cigarette brands seemed to be minimal. They found only one lawsuit dealing with candy cigarettes, yet no payment was required despite the alleged 30 years of infringement. In contrast, evidence of trademark enforcement by tobacco companies against competing tobacco interests has been vigorous.

The authors also found evidence of suppression of unfavorable scientific research. A study into the relationship between candy cigarettes and smoking, sponsored by the two major U.S. candy cigarette manufacturers in 1991, came to several conclusions about the potential harmful effects of candy cigarettes in encouraging children to smoke. This report was "revised" for public use, say the authors, and references to the observations of children mimicking adult smokers and the researchers' concerns about design features suggestive of tobacco cigarettes were deleted from the original version.

Candy cigarette products have been manufactured since the early part of the 20th century, and continue to be sold with trademark and packaging that mimics real tobacco cigarette brands. Klein says candy cigarettes allow children to "play" at smoking and thus respond to tobacco advertising.

"We need more vigorous public health strategies - including abolishing candy cigarettes and other tobacco product look-alikes - to eliminate the influence of these products on children," Klein says. "For many children, this is the first step that ultimately leads to a long, painful and unnecessary death."

As a physician, Klein has been active in tobacco prevention and control activities. He's researched the link between candy and gum look-alike products on children's attitudes toward smoking. Klein has also served as a member of the expert panel that developed the child and adolescent section of the National Cancer Institute manual titled, "How to Help Your Patients Stop Smoking."

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