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St. Paul, Minn., Cracks Down on Candy Cigarettes

Courtesy Tobi Lynden(ST. PAUL, Minn.) -- A mom-and-pop candy shop in St. Paul, Minn., got a Prohibition-style visit from authorities who threw the book at the owners for selling cigarettes and cigars to children, even though they were made only of bubble gum.

An official with the city's Department of Safety and Inspection who visited Lynden's Soda Fountain last week told the gum slingers to pack up their best-selling candy cigarettes, Big League Chew and bubble gum cigars, or face a $500 fine, proprietor Tobi Lynden told ABC News.

"This a tiny little shop.  We've got a soda fountain from the '50s, and sell nostalgic candy and ice cream.  It's a very neighborhoody place," Lynden said.

Citing a 2009 city ordinance that banned the sale of candy cigarettes for fear they'd promote smoking to minors, the health inspector told Lynden that she had to remove the offending candy or face the consequences.

Lynden complied and stored the candy sticks in the shop's basement away from the public.

When news of the crackdown hit Facebook, some took to the Web to complain.

"Wow.  Unfortunately, my grandson started smoking, and I am willing to bet he never saw a candy cigar or cigarette.  If they think that is the problem they need some new people on that committee," a woman named Becky Silver posted on the candy shop's Facebook page.

Lynden, a mother and a former nurse, said she was complying with the law but was torn as to its efficacy.

"I see both sides.  We don't want to be promoters of kids having lifelong cigarette smoking habits.  We care about kids and health.  But if the city is worried about cigarettes, maybe they should ban cigarettes," she said.

Maine and Tennessee have statewide bans on candy cigarettes, as do Thailand, Canada and Australia.

Calls to the St. Paul Department of Safety and Inspection were not returned.  Spokesman Robert Humphrey, however, told the Star Tribune: "We enforce this on a complaint basis.  This isn't taking time away from any major enforcement [actions]."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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