This ought to be no surprise to anyone, but a new study finds that children who buy cigarette look-alike candy and bubble gum are two to four times more likely to smoke real ones later on than youngsters who do not purchase such candies.

The independent survey is a powerful argument against the candies because they clearly have some effect on experimenting with actual cigarettes. No reputable candymaker should want that on his conscience.The study examined seventh-grade students as well as youngsters in the 4-11 age category as to attitudes and behavior. Surprisingly, it discovered that the impact of the candy cigarettes was even heavier in homes where the parents were non-smokers.

In families with at least one parent who smoked, seventh-grade children who bought the look-alikes at least twice were two times as likely to have smoked real cigarettes than youngsters who bought the candies once or not at all. Children from non-smoking homes who purchased such candies at least twice were four times as likely to have tried real cigarettes.

Clearly, the insidious pull of cigarette look-alike candy is powerful enough to offset parental example in many cases. That ought to be disturbing to every parent trying to keep children from smoking.

Why have candy cigarettes in the first place? What purpose is served?

Among the younger children, the most striking fact - according to Dr. Jonathan D. Klein, an assistant pediatrics professor at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine - is that even at a tender age, they treated the look-alikes as "smoking toys" instead of merely candies that are eaten.

The author of an earlier study among adults - a study sponsored by a candy company that found little blame for smoking attached to candy look-alikes - criticized any attack on candy cigarettes. "If we attack candy cigarettes, then we have to attack M&Ms because they resemble adult pills . . .," he said.

That kind of logic, or rather lack of logic, simply tries to avoid the issue. The real point is one made by the latest study, namely, that toy cigarettes should not be allowed to enter child's play any more than toy marijuana joints or toy cocaine.