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Sex! Drugs! Racism! 8 Controversial Candies

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Chewing bubblegum, eating a chocolate bar, and sucking on a lollipop are among the many innocent joys of childhood. But if you found one of these controversial sweets in your kid's Trick or Treat bag, it might leave a sour taste in your mouth.

1. Candy Cigarettes

Candy cigarettes and their tobacco big brothers have a shared history in the United States. Just as real cigarettes became commonplace in the early 20th century, candy cigarettes, also called “candy sticks,” were introduced to the market—first as chalky, hard candy, and later as bubblegum. Both the real deal and the confectionery version also hit a peak in popularity during the 1950s and '60s, and have seen a steady decline in sales ever since. During this time there was never any illusion of the candy's intentions, as many boxes mimicked the design of the real packs, used parody names like Marboro and Lucky Spike, and some even had red-dyed tips to make them look like they were lit. But with brands promoted by everyone from Popeye to Superman to Mr. Spock, there's no question they were marketed for children.

As the real dangers of smoking became apparent, the influence candy cigarettes could have on kids became a point of concern. But do candy sticks lead to cancer sticks?

As it turns out, yeah, they might. A 2007 study conducted by the University of Rochester shows that, of nearly 26,000 adults surveyed, 22% of smokers said they had regularly played with candy cigarettes as kids, but only 14% of non-smokers had. Knowing this, maybe the many attempts to ban candy smokes in the U.S. over the years haven't been misguided.

Candy sticks were actually banned at one time, but only briefly, in North Dakota from 1953 to 1967. This might come as a surprise to those of you who thought they were banned right now. The Food and Drug Administration's 2009 Family Smoking and Prevention Control Act was misinterpreted by many media outlets who then erroneously reported that the act included a ban on candy cigarettes. In fact, the ban really just affected tobacco cigarettes that had candy (or fruit) flavorings.

But just because they're legal, doesn't mean you're going to find them on too many store shelves. Most retailers don't want to deal with the backlash from the public, so they don't bother carrying them. However, if you still want to get your faux fix, a quick Google search brings up plenty of online retailers with a variety of brands and flavors still available today.

2. Chronic Candy

If parents were up in arms over candy that looks like cigarettes, imagine how upset they were over candy that tastes like marijuana.

Available since the mid-90s, brands like Chronic Candy and Hemp Candy are made using perfectly legal hemp oil, which gives the dark green lollipops their distinct flavor, but doesn't get you high. Everyone from parents, police, church leaders, and even a specialized group, The Coalition Against Chronic Candy, have been working towards the elimination of these controversial suckers by political means and by educating merchants on the impact of carrying the sweets. They say the candy is not only sending the message that marijuana is acceptable, but that kids who acquire a taste for weed by sucking the lollipops could be predisposed to trying the real thing later in life. Their efforts have not been helped by the fact that Chronic Candy and other brands have had popular celebrity endorsers like Paris Hilton, Cheech Marin, and Snoop Dogg promoting their products.

Thus far, the candy has not been banned nationwide, but cities like Chicago have stopped sales, often before they even started. Of course as with anything today, you can always buy marijuana suckers online.

3. Craque Candy

Freida Orange of Brooklyn makes candy.  Really good candy, apparently, because her friends say it's as addictive as crack cocaine.  So when she decided to go into business, she played off the description and came up with the name "craque candy."  Her bite-sized nuggets of peanut butter, chocolate, and powdered sugar look like little rocks and, to complete the allusion, she packages samples in single-serving plastic baggies.  

When she first opened her online shop, many in her hometown railed against her product, saying that it's making light of a very serious problem. It hasn't stopped Frieda from selling her candy and it hasn't stopped Martha Stewart from putting craque's "Witchcraque" blend on a list of “11 Scary-Good Halloween Treats.”

4. Sloche Gummi Spiders

Sloche, a brand of Canadian candy made by Couche-Tard, is known for its provocative packaging. For example, a bag of gummi frogs features an illustration of a Biology class dissection, complete with pins holding holding down the amphibian's legs. And Sloche's cotton candy, called “Hair Balls,” is sold in a tub with a sickly cat on the front. But to Laurraine LeBlanc, the gummi spider packaging went a bit too far. The bag showed a picture of a snarling black man with a big gold tooth, gold earrings, and a black spider on his head, with the legs dangling in his face like dreadlocks. LeBlanc felt the image perpetuated the stereotype that black men were all violent gang members—and The Quebec Human Rights Commission agreed, ruling against the company, who insisted the packaging was just for fun.

In the end, Couche-Tard pulled the offending candy from shelves, and donated $18,000 to Youth In Motion, a Canadian group that mentors young people. And for her efforts in the fight against racism, LeBlanc was awarded a 2006 Anne-Greenup Prize by the Immigration and Cultural Communities Minister of Quebec.

5. Road Kill Gummis

In the summer of 2004, Trolli, then a division of Kraft Foods, introduced their new gummi candies called, Road Kill. The brightly colored, fruit-flavored pieces of rubbery gelatin were in the shape of animals like squirrels, chickens, and snakes that had been flattened by a car, complete with tire tracks down their backs. By March 2005, the New Jersey branch of PETA had issued a complaint that the candy encouraged kids to be cruel to animals. The group had planned to start a letter-writing campaign, petition drives, and call for a general boycott of Kraft if it didn't take the offensive candy off the market, but the company complied with barely a second thought.

Kraft, who was deep in negotiations with Wrigley to buy out the Trolli candy division, really didn't need a controversy to mess things up. So they quickly pulled the cartoonish dead animals from the shelves and issued an apology. Wrigley bought Trolli and other confectionery brands from Kraft in June of that year for $1.46 billion.

6. Maoam Candy

Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. And sometimes a lime-colored bean licking a pair of smiling cherries is just...well, we're not quite sure what that is. Neither did the UK's Simon Simpkins, who raised quite a ruckus when he found packages of Maoam candies at his local sweet shop with the bizarre, offending images. The illustrations featured a character called “Maoam Man” who is, in the words of Mr. Simpkins, “locked in what appears to be a carnal encounter” with fruits such as lemons, cherries, strawberries, and oranges, with “a particularly lurid expression on his face.” Despite his complaints, Haribo, the candymaker, declined to change the packaging, because Maoam Man was “very popular with fans, both young and old.” It seems a safe bet he was pretty popular with lemons, cherries, strawberries, and oranges, too.

7. Big League Chew

Since its introduction in 1980, Big League Chew has been a constant on both Little League fields and parental hit lists. This shredded bubble gum, designed and packaged to look like the same tobacco major leaguers chew, was the brainchild of two ballplayers, Rob Nelson and Jim Bouton, who remembered packing their cheeks with bubblegum as kids to mimic their favorite players' plugs. Over the years, parents have tried to get BLC banned because they worry it could lead to the real deal. And, according to some researchers, like Harvard's Gregory Connolly, a public health professor, they may not be too far off base.

“With Big League Chew, you get all the sensory cues with using chewing tobacco," said Connolly. To him, “the natural next step” is to replace sugar with the much more addictive drug nicotine. But all the complaints and professional opinions haven't stopped kids from buying the gum—over 450 million pouches have been sold over the past 30 years.

8. Eskimos Candy

To some Inuit people of Canada, being called an “Eskimo” is very offensive. So imagine her surprise when, in 2009, Inuit Seeka Lee Veevee Parsons was vacationing in New Zealand and saw a package of Cadbury's Eskimo Candies in just about every store she entered. The popular marshmallow treats are shaped like people dressed in stereotypical fur-lined hoods, which Canterbury University's Dr. Nicole Gombay, who studies Intuit culture, compares to “putting an African in a mud hut with a grass skirt and a bone in his hand.” Despite the offensive image, the candy has been around since 1955 and is still quite popular today—Kiwis eat nearly 20 million pieces annually. So while Cadbury said they could appreciate Parsons' complaint, they had no intention of changing the name or the shape. Even Parsons' own uncle, David Veevee, said about New Zealanders, “They just don't know any better,” and he also admitted, “It's just a candy, after all.”
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Do you know of any other controversial candies that we missed? Tell us about it in the comments below!

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10 Memorable Neil deGrasse Tyson Quotes
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Neil deGrasse Tyson is America's preeminent badass astrophysicist. He's a passionate advocate for science, NASA, and education. He's also well-known for a little incident involving Pluto. And the man holds nearly 20 honorary doctorates (in addition to his real one). In honor of his 59th birthday, here are 10 of our favorite Neil deGrasse Tyson quotes.

1. ON SCIENCE

"The good thing about science is that it's true whether or not you believe in it."
—From Real Time with Bill Maher.

2. ON NASA FUNDING

"As a fraction of your tax dollar today, what is the total cost of all spaceborne telescopes, planetary probes, the rovers on Mars, the International Space Station, the space shuttle, telescopes yet to orbit, and missions yet to fly?' Answer: one-half of one percent of each tax dollar. Half a penny. I’d prefer it were more: perhaps two cents on the dollar. Even during the storied Apollo era, peak NASA spending amounted to little more than four cents on the tax dollar." 
—From Space Chronicles

3. ON GOD AND HURRICANES

"Once upon a time, people identified the god Neptune as the source of storms at sea. Today we call these storms hurricanes ... The only people who still call hurricanes acts of God are the people who write insurance forms."
—From Death by Black Hole

4. ON THE BENEFITS OF TECHNOLOGY INVENTED FOR USE IN SPACE

"Countless women are alive today because of ideas stimulated by a design flaw in the Hubble Space Telescope." (Editor's note: technology used to repair the Hubble Space Telescope's optical problems led to improved technology for breast cancer detection.)
—From Space Chronicles

5. ON THE DEMOTION OF PLUTO FROM PLANET STATUS 

PBS

"I knew Pluto was popular among elementary schoolkids, but I had no idea they would mobilize into a 'Save Pluto' campaign. I now have a drawer full of hate letters from hundreds of elementary schoolchildren (with supportive cover letters from their science teachers) pleading with me to reverse my stance on Pluto. The file includes a photograph of the entire third grade of a school posing on their front steps and holding up a banner proclaiming, 'Dr. Tyson—Pluto is a Planet!'"
—From The Sky Is Not the Limit

6. ON JAMES CAMERON'S TITANIC

"In [Titanic], the stars above the ship bear no correspondence to any constellations in a real sky. Worse yet, while the heroine bobs ... we are treated to her view of this Hollywood sky—one where the stars on the right half of the scene trace the mirror image of the stars in the left half. How lazy can you get?"
—From Death by Black Hole

7. ON DEATH BY ASTEROID

"On Friday the 13th, April 2029, an asteroid large enough to fill the Rose Bowl as though it were an egg cup will fly so close to Earth that it will dip below the altitude of our communication satellites. We did not name this asteroid Bambi. Instead, we named it Apophis, after the Egyptian god of darkness and death."
—From Space Chronicles

8. ON THE MOTIVATIONS BEHIND AMERICA'S MOONSHOT

"[L]et us not fool ourselves into thinking we went to the Moon because we are pioneers, or discoverers, or adventurers. We went to the Moon because it was the militaristically expedient thing to do."
—From The Sky Is Not the Limit

9. ON INTELLIGENT LIFE (OR THE LACK THEREOF)

Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life.
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/n/neildegras615117.html
Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life.
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/n/neildegras615117.html

"Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life."

10. PRACTICAL ADVICE IN THE EVENT OF ALIEN CONTACT 

A still from Steven Spielberg's E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
Universal Studios
"[I]f an alien lands on your front lawn and extends an appendage as a gesture of greeting, before you get friendly, toss it an eightball. If the appendage explodes, then the alien was probably made of antimatter. If not, then you can proceed to take it to your leader."
—From Death by Black Hole
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40 Fun Facts About Sesame Street
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Now in its 47th season, Sesame Street is one of television's most iconic programs—and it's not just for kids. We're big fans of the Street, and to prove it, here are some of our favorite Sesame facts from previous stories and our Amazing Fact Generator.

Sesame Workshop

1. Oscar the Grouch used to be orange. Jim Henson decided to make him green before season two.

2. How did Oscar explain the color change? He said he went on vacation to the very damp Swamp Mushy Muddy and turned green overnight.

3. During a 2004 episode, Cookie Monster said that before he started eating cookies, his name was Sid.

4. In 1980, C-3PO and R2-D2 visited Sesame Street. They played games, sang songs, and R2-D2 fell in love with a fire hydrant.

5. Mr. Snuffleupagus has a first name—Aloysius

6. Ralph Nader stopped by in 1988 and sang "a consumer advocate is a person in your neighborhood."

7. Caroll Spinney said he based Oscar's voice on a cab driver from the Bronx who brought him to the audition.

8. In 1970, Ernie reached #16 on the Billboard Hot 100 with the timeless hit "Rubber Duckie."

9. One of Count von Count's lady friends is Countess von Backwards, who's also obsessed with counting but likes to do it backwards.

10. Sesame Street made its Afghanistan debut in 2011 with Baghch-e-Simsim (Sesame Garden). Big Bird, Grover and Elmo are involved.

11. According to Muppet Wiki, Oscar the Grouch and Count von Count were minimized on Baghch-e-Simsim "due to cultural taboos against trash and vampirism."

12. Before Giancarlo Esposito was Breaking Bad's super intense Gus Fring, he played Big Bird's camp counselor Mickey in 1982.

13. Thankfully, those episodes are available on YouTube.

14. How big is Big Bird? 8'2". (Pictured with First Lady Pat Nixon.)

15. In 2002, the South African version (Takalani Sesame) added an HIV-positive Muppet named Kami.

16. Six Republicans on the House Commerce Committee wrote a letter to PBS president Pat Mitchell warning that Kami was not appropriate for American children, and reminded Mitchell that their committee controlled PBS' funding.

17. Sesame Street's resident game show host Guy Smiley was using a pseudonym. His real name was Bernie Liederkrantz.

18. Bert and Ernie have been getting questioned about their sexuality for years. Ernie himself, as performed by Steve Whitmere, has weighed in: “All that stuff about me and Bert? It’s not true. We’re both very happy, but we’re not gay,”

19. A few years later, Bert (as performed by Eric Jacobson) answered the same question by saying, “No, no. In fact, sometimes we are not even friends; he can be a pain in the neck.”

20. In the first season, both Superman and Batman appeared in short cartoons produced by Filmation. In one clip, Batman told Bert and Ernie to stop arguing and take turns choosing what’s on TV.

21. In another segment, Superman battled a giant chimp.

22. Telly was originally "Television Monster," a TV-obsessed Muppet whose eyes whirled around as he watched.

23. According to Sesame Workshop, Elmo is the only non-human to testify before Congress.

24. He lobbied for more funding for music education, so that "when Elmo goes to school, there will be the instruments to play."

25. In the early 1990s, soon after Jim Henson’s passing, a rumor circulated that Ernie would be killed off in order to teach children about death, as they'd done with Mr. Hooper.

26. According to Snopes, the rumor may have spread thanks to New Hampshire college student, Michael Tabor, who convinced his graduating class to wear “Save Ernie” beanies and sign a petition to persuade Sesame Workshop to let Ernie live.

27. By the time Tabor was corrected, the newspapers had already picked up the story.

28. Sesame Street’s Executive Producer Carol-Lynn Parente joined Sesame Workshop as a production assistant and has worked her way to the top.

29. Originally, Count von Count was more sinister. He could hypnotize and stun people.

30. According to Sesame Workshop, all Sesame Street's main Muppets have four fingers except Cookie Monster, who has five.

31. The episode with Mr. Hooper's funeral aired on Thanksgiving Day in 1983. That date was chosen because families were more likely to be together at that time, in case kids had questions or needed emotional support.

32. Mr. Hooper’s first name was Harold.

33. Big Bird sang "Bein' Green" at Jim Henson's memorial service.

34. As Chris Higgins put it, the performance was "devastating."

35. Oscar's Israeli counterpart is Moishe Oofnik, whose last name means “grouch” in Hebrew.

36. Nigeria's version of Cookie Monster eats yams. His catchphrase: "ME WANT YAM!"

37. Sesame's Roosevelt Franklin ran a school, where he spoke in scat and taught about Africa. Some parents hated him, so in 1975 he got the boot, only to inspire Gob Bluth’s racist puppet Franklin on Arrested Development 28 years later.

38. Our good friend and contributor Eddie Deezen was the voice of Donnie Dodo in the 1985 classic Follow That Bird.

39. Cookie Monster evolved from The Wheel-Stealer—a snack-pilfering puppet Jim Henson created to promote Wheels, Crowns and Flutes in the 1960s.

40. This puppet later was seen eating a computer in an IBM training film and on The Ed Sullivan Show.

Thanks to Stacy Conradt, Joe Hennes, Drew Toal, and Chris Higgins for their previous Sesame coverage!

An earlier version of this article appeared in 2012.

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