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The American confectionery company Victoria Sweets claims to have invented the candy cigarette. A thin stick of chocolate, wrapped in edible paper and designed to impersonate a roll-up, it debuted in 1915 and soon became the accessory of choice for children keen to play grown-up. Hollywood star, GI Joe, team captain: the sweet gave kids the chance try out one of the vogue props of adulthood.
Within 20 years it was so popular that cigarette companies began to take notice. Leading brands such as Marlboro, Winston and Salem authorised their packaging designs for use on millions of candy cigarette boxes. One confectioner of the period touted the sweet’s “tremendous advertising factor to coming-up cigaret smokers.”
The marketing of imitation adult products to children in the hope they will blossom into customers of the genuine article is widespread. The video game presents further opportunities for manufacturers to target young people. Toyota and Nissan work with racing game developers to show off their vehicles as pristinely desirable. Nike and Adidas position their logo on virtual boots. Gibson licenses plastic versions of its guitars in the hope players will progress from the coloured buttons of the peripheral to the nickel-wound strings of a Les Paul.
And Barrett, creator of the M82, a shoulder-fired, .50-caliber semi-automatic sniper rifle, hopes that the appearance of its weapon in a video game will, in time, turn young players into gun owners.