"We see parents and grandparents coming in and rediscovering candy cigarettes. They use them for costuming, for parties, for nostalgic gifting," said Terese McDonald, founder of Chicago-based specialty candy store Candyality.
CandyWarehouse.com, a distributor which sells 24 boxes of candy cigarettes for $8.40, sells to customers who throw World War II parties, where cigarette girls carry trays loaded with the candies. Old dudes who need the final piece of their greaser Halloween costume make up a decent chunk of the customer base too. Once favored by those too young to smoke the real things, candy cigarettes now belong to those old enough to know better.
Stephen Traino, owner of distributor CandyNation.com, said he's seen sales of the the candies drop in the past decade. "The people who remember these most grew up in the '50s through the '70s. My theory is that people who missed these have already looked up and bought this candy to fulfill their memories of childhood," he said.
And so that finally leads us to an answer to the question posed in the headline of this story: how the hell are candy cigarettes still a thing? People who liked candy cigarettes when they were kids still like them as adults. Those willing to search for them are still buying them, so candy companies are still producing them.