Candy Bust in St. Paul

$500 fine warned for second offense

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- An old-school soda shop in St. Paul, Minn., was busted recently for selling cigarettes--made of candy.

The owner of Lynden's Soda Fountain said a city-inspections official came in last week and gave the shop a warning and added that a misdemeanor citation--with a $500 fine--would be next if the non-carcinogenic confections continue to be sold, according to a report in the Star Tribune.

"We got busted [Dec. 19] by the City of St. Paul. Oops," the shop tweeted.

Candy cigarettes, bubble-gum cigars and bubble gum made to look like chewing tobacco have been among a host of vintage sugary treats that Lynden's has kept in stock since it opened in April.

"We had no idea," Tobi Lynden told the newspaper, lamenting that she can no longer sell the white candy sticks with the red tips, her best-selling candy. "We don't want to get on the bad side of St. Paul."

Lynden said nearly all of the candy-cigarette purchases were made by adults.

" 'Oh, I had these when I was little,' " she said she would often hear. "We weren't trying to promote smoking or tobacco use of any kind."

Robert Humphrey, spokesman for the city's Safety and Inspections Department, said the complaint came to his agency Dec. 13. An inspector visited Lynden's on Dec. 19 and had the forbidden products immediately removed from the sales floor.

A unanimous City Council outlawed candy smokes and cartoon character lighters in April 2009. The council cited a study showing that these products encouraged youngsters to take up smoking tobacco.

Lynden's Facebook page has collected dozens of comments decrying the enforcement action and the rationale behind it.

"I just got through a bag of gummy bears," one person wrote. "Now I can't stop thinking about where to find a REAL bear to eat!"

Humphrey said he gets a complaint "about once a year" concerning the sale of candy cigarettes and other sugary tobacco-themed products in the city.

"We enforce this on a complaint basis," Humphrey said. "This isn't taking time away from any major enforcement [actions]."