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What candy was created to help people quit smoking?



PEZ candy was created to help people quit smoking.

Decades before doctors began to publicize the harmful effects of cigarettes, a 30-year-old Austrian executive decided to invent a refreshing alternative. In 1927, Eduard Haas III was managing his family’s baking goods business — the Ed. Haas Company — when he expanded the product line to include round, peppermint-flavored treats known as PEZ Drops. The German word for peppermint is pfefferminz, and Haas found the name for his new candies by combining the first, middle, and last letters of the German term. Clever advertising built national demand for the candy, which adopted its iconic brick shape in the 1930s and eventually nixed the “Drops.” PEZ were packaged in foil paper or metal tins until Haas hired engineer Oscar Uxa to devise a convenient way of extracting a tablet single-handedly. Uxa’s innovation — a plastic dispenser with a cap that tilted backward as springs pushed the candy forward — debuted at the 1949 Vienna Trade Fair. 

A U.S. patent for the dispenser was obtained in 1952, but Americans of the day showed little interest in giving up smoking. So PEZ replaced the mint pellets with fruity ones and targeted a new demographic: children. In 1957, after experimenting with pricey dispensers shaped like robots, Santa Claus, and space guns, PEZ released a Halloween dispenser that featured a three-dimensional witch’s head atop a rectangular case. A Popeye version was licensed in 1958, and since then PEZ has gone on to produce some 1,500 different novelty-topped dispensers. An Austrian original that was revolutionized in America, PEZ is now enjoyed in more than 80 countries — and it’s still owned by the Ed. Haas Company.

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