Q. I am looking for something that may not be made any longer: candy cigarettes, which I enjoyed as a child. Could you find if they are still available -- and before July 16?
-- L.L. Perkins, of Pocahontas
A. "When candy cigarettes are outlawed, only outlaws will have candy cigarettes."
While that takeoff on the classic pro-gun-rights argument may make you chuckle, it's a serious matter for the guy at www.candycigarettes.org.
It has become difficult to find this simple treat we enjoyed as youngsters. Several countries have banned them outright. Even in the good ol' US of A, some states and cities have tried to keep our kiddies safe from this dangerous scourge.
"While it may not be a big deal to find out that vintage candies are being outlawed, this is usually a good barometer for how your government feels about its citizens," argues the guy at the website, who is old enough to remember being sent to the store as a child to buy his uncle a pack of the real thing. "Nanny-state aficionados spend their time passing a minefield of ordinances with minor violations and fines."
Candy cigarettes were introduced in the early 20th century and usually were made of either chalky sugar or bubble gum. I loved the taste of them and the feeling, I suppose, that I looked like Humphrey Bogart or Jack Webb with one between my fingers.
So when my mom sent me to Seifferth's Bakery at 16th and Main to fetch a custard coffee cake, I'd snare myself either a Pez refill or a pack of those sweet coffin nails. (Kids may have cell phones and iPads these days, but do they still have the fun of drooling over a penny-candy display?)
Almost from candy cigarettes' first appearance, however, experts have worried that they would turn kids into tobacco addicts as soon as they could roll up a pack of Marlboros in their T-shirt sleeves a la James Dean.
North Dakota banned them from 1953 to 1967. In late 2012, St. Paul, Minn., made headlines by citing a store for selling them.
"The St. Paul City Council may also want to look out for twigs on the ground," the website adds sarcastically. "As I recall, a favorite activity on the first cold day of the year was to hold a twig in your mouth while blowing out foggy air to simulate smoking."
Several countries, including Brazil, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, prohibit candy cigs.
"So far, there aren't any episodes of 'Locked Up Abroad' where an enterprising smuggler tries to get candy smokes past the customs agents in Finland," the website jokes.
In one sense I see the point. Even www.oldtimecandy.com cites some evidence that candymakers worked with cigarette companies to attract young smokers. If I remember correctly, the candy I bought had the brand names of the real McCoy -- Viceroy, Pall Mall, L&M, etc. They even had an artificially colored red tip so they looked as though they were lit.
Yet despite studies showing how I was about to graduate to a life of cancer and COPD, I have never taken one single puff off the real thing. Even my dad smoked (I still have his Camel and Salem lighters.), but the last thing I wanted to do was breathe in those yucky vapors.
So I'm not convinced of the link, and, fortunately, candy cigarettes are still widely available, albeit on the Internet. Among the possibilities: www.oldtimecandy.com, where you'll find a pack of 10 "candy sticks" (That's the politically correct name now.) for 40 cents, 24 packs for $5.99 -- or 30 pounds of mini-packs (2 sticks) for $169.99. Unfortunately, you'll have to settle for faux brands like Kings, Stallion and Target. If you don't have a computer, call 1-866-WAX LIPS (929-5477).
Otherwise you can try amazon.com, candycrate.com and, my favorite, blaircandy.com, where you can walk back in time through candy aisles set up by the decade. Whether you have a hankering for those old strips of candy buttons, candy necklaces, Atomic Fire Balls, root beer barrels, Bonomo Turkish Taffy or -- yes -- wax lips, you likely can relive your childhood fantasies here (800-698-3536).
What do you call those colorful, wrinkly pieces of fleshy material hanging on the heads of a chicken or turkey called -- and what good are they, anyway?
Answer to Tuesday's trivia: In early 1922, a musical revue called "Pins and Needles" opened at the Shubert Theatre in New York. It closed after just 46 performances, but was revived in 1937 by members of the then-striking International Ladies Garment Union, who were looking for ways to entertain their members. The production proved so popular, it ran for three years and 1,108 performances before coming back again in 1978 on Broadway and 2010 in London. In 1938, a special performance was held at the White House for the Roosevelts.
Send your questions to Roger Schlueter, Belleville News-Democrat, 120 S. Illinois St., P.O. Box 427, Belleville, IL 62222-0427 or firstname.lastname@example.org or call 618-239-2465.