The Monterey Peninsula Toy Box
Evolution of the Breath Mint
By
Mr. Toy

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I was thinking about Altoids the other day. Those Curiously Strong peppermints in that old-fashioned looking tin. They're everywhere nowdays. They even played a prominent role in the Ken Starr report. (I still want to know how they help.)

Do you remember the days before Altoids?

Tic Tacs were the mint of choice a decade ago. Tic Tacs were introduced sometime in the late '70s I think. They were shaped like the white half of Tylenol, and were just the right size to get stuck in a kid's nose. I know of one case where it actually happened (in this particular case it was an orange one).

Anyway, they came in a little clear plastic container with a flip top lid. They came in all kinds of flavors, but we're talking about mints, so let's get on with it.

People had to deal with bad breath in the late '60s and early '70s, and the Tic Tac hadn't been invented yet. That was the reign of Certs. Certs contained a "sparkling drop of Retsyn, [bling!] to stop bad breath." Today anything called Retsyn probably wouldn't get past the EPA, but circa 1965 it was considered to be the ultimate in anti-halitosis technology. My mom carried Certs in her purse for many years.

A footnote to the Certs story: when I was a kid I had a map of the solar system on my wall. There is a large asteroid between Earth and Mars called Ceres, but its name was in small print, and from my bed it looked like "Certs." I thought it odd to have a breath mint named after an astronomical object (or was it vice-versa?).

Before Certs, there was the humble peppermint Life Savers. I always liked to play with those because they looked like little life preservers. They'd fit in well on the rail of a model boat. 'Cept I didn't have a model boat. My dad was a Life Savers man. Probably because he once had a real boat.

But none of this matters to me because I'm not a big fan of candy mints, unless they're soft and chocolaty, or like Junior Mints which are soft and chocolate coated. I read somewhere once a long long time ago that candy mints have just the right combination of ingredients to accelerate tooth decay. Don't know if that's true. Prolly ain't.

I have also heard it said that you should never refuse a breath mint when offered. That may be good advice.