Food Dares: Smarties(R)
You’ve seen them in every bucket of candy brought home on Halloween – tiny, pale multi-colored candies packaged in a clear cellophane roll. They’re called Smarties® and you’d never think this classic treat could pose much of a health risk to your child, but you might just be wrong. The dangerous food dare trend is emerging of the snorting and “smoking” of Smarties®.
WHY ARE KIDS SNORTING SMARTIES®?
Typically done on a dare or just in an attempt to appear “cool,” the snorting of Smarties® is not necessarily a new trend, but it is one that many parents are still unaware of. A proliferation of YouTube videos (some dating back to 2007) show kids – often at their desk in the classroom – grinding up and snorting the chalky candy, erupting in a fit of coughs afterwards, while their friends laugh and egg them on.
The behavior is most common among fourth through eighth graders. Because it’s candy, and not a drug, they often don’t think they’re doing anything wrong or dangerous, but the dare is not without risk.
In fact, some schools, such as Portsmouth Middle School in Rhode Island, are sending home notices warning parents about this behavior, and a handful of kids (like one 9-year-old boy in Georgia) have been suspended for inhaling the candy.
SNORTING AND SMOKING SMARTIES®: THE FACTS
Both snorting and smoking Smarties® first involves crushing the candies (anywhere from a few to a small handful) into a fine powder. For snorting, kids emulate the methods favored by powdered drug users to inhale the sugary mix, using straws, rolled up papers or dollar bills to sniff the powder into their nasal passages. Pixie Stix are also sometimes used to this same purpose.
When smoking Smarties®, kids leave the candy in its wrapper while crushing and grinding it down. They then open or cut one end of the wrapper and suck the powder into their mouths, instantly blowing out the resultant smoke, essentially mimicking a smoker’s exhalation. Some even blow the dust out through their nostrils.
Ingested improperly, Smarties® are an irritant to the body. Health risks involved in snorting and smoking the candy include:
Cuts and scarring (from pieces that haven’t been ground fine enough)
Lung irritation and infection
Allergic reaction including anaphylaxis (leading to death in its worst-case-scenario)
Respiratory issues including chronic cough, wheezing, and asthma/sinus complications
Possible obstruction that must be removed by a specialist
WHAT CAN PARENTS DO?
As any parent knows, you can neither lock your kids in the house 24 hours a day, nor monitor their every move. If they want to do something bad enough, they’ll find a way. With this in mind, direct communication is always the best route to take. Here are a few tips to keep your children safe from this dare:
Set a good example by not participating in any dares yourself. Adults are not exempt from peer pressure (see Chubby Bunny) and making bad choices – make sure your behavior isn’t having a negative influence on your child.
Talk openly with your kids about the dangers of peer pressure, the ramifications of dares in general, and specifically about snorting Smarties® and the dangers it poses.
Keep an eye out for any evidence that your kid might be participating in this behavior. Are there rolled up papers or dollar bills and packs of Smarties® lying around in their room or backpack? Are they having unexplained respiratory problems or an unexplained nosebleed?
Talk to your kid’s school to make sure the teachers are aware of this fad and that they have a “no tolerance” policy. Remember, kids are often snorting Smarties® right in the classroom so a teacher who’s aware of the trend is better equipped to spot and put a stop to it.
In and of themselves, Smarties® do not produce a high; they are also not addictive. Kids seem to be doing it solely to pretend they are taking drugs or to act “cool.”
Aside from its harmful physical effects, many fear that by emulating drug use with candy, real drug use is glorified and that this behavior could be a precursor to a child trying the real thing in the future with anything from cigarettes to cocaine.