Childhood and candy seem to just about go hand-in-hand. Sure, it’s unhealthy, but that doesn’t change the fact that many kids out there really crave sweets. That’s why so much sugary stuff seems to be marketed to a younger audience.

That being said, there’s nothing stopping adults from eating candy, too. In fact, when it comes to at least one brand, the notion of marketing to children initially never crossed their minds. Oddly enough, we’re talking about Pez.

You probably associate the product with its collectible dispensers, but this story about the candy’s creation might just change the way you think about it forever!

Chances are, you’re familiar with Pez candy, and you’re perhaps even more familiar with those iconic Pez dispensers. They’re whimsical and fun—even when you’ve long since run out of candy to store inside them.

Considering the fact that Pez dispensers have made use of licenses from just about every popular character or pop culture figure in recent memory—from superheroes to athletes—they’re almost endlessly collectible.

Yet for all the fun and novelty of eating Pez candy and collecting the dispensers, most people would never suspect that the brand actually has an odd history. In fact, many fans might find the candy brand’s origins to be quite shocking…

If you’re still skeptical, look no further than this vintage Pez advertisement. Doesn’t that man almost look as if he is offering the young woman something suspiciously similar to an old-fashioned cigarette lighter?

Well, your eyes do not deceive you! That is exactly what Pez dispensers are designed to remind you of. Before they were given all sorts of other flavors, like wild cherry and orange, Pez was advertised as anti-smoking mints.

Not only was mint the only flavor that was available for Pez candy pieces, but the word “Pez” is actually short for Pfefferminz, which is German for—you guessed it—”peppermint.” At the time, marketing such a product to children must have seemed absurd.

Linnaea Mallette / Public Domain Pictures

The original Pez advertisements employed a technique that was common at the time and would continue into the present day: using pictures of beautiful women. After all, the company needed to do whatever it could to present a non-smoking lifestyle as an attractive option, especially considering how popular the practice was back in the day!

In 1955, the brand started to actively market its product to children. It achieved this by introducing tastier fruit flavors, and of course, by producing the dispensers in a colorful and appealing packaging.

There was even a time in which you could purchase a Pez candy dispensing gun that would literally shoot out the pieces of candy like bullets! Obviously, this must have been dangerous, so you could imagine why it was discontinued.

Even though Pez has such a strange history as a company, none of that has to mean that we can’t still enjoy the candy and dispensers as the cool, collectible products that they are. In some ways, it might actually make them more charming!

Who would have known that something like candy was once believed to help people quit smoking? After all, both candy and nicotine are addictive!

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