The e-mail, sent by someone at the school around 4:30 p.m. Thursday, warns parents of an “unsafe, new trend among some of our middle school students — smoking or snorting the candy, Smarties. Our research has taught us this is a widespread phenomenon and is the subject of many You-Tube videos.”
The e-mail (reprinted in its entirety below) goes on to say that the risks associated with inhaling or snorting the candy are many. They include infection, scarring of the nasal cavity, lung irritation, allergic reactions and even maggots, according to the e-mail, which also claims the habit can lead to future cigarette smoking and drug use.
John McDaid, whose Hard Deadlines blog posted news of the e-mail early Thursday evening, said he was alarmed by the e-mail’s tone. On his blog, he described it as a “rather hysterical warning.”
“I’m not questioning that this may be something that kids have tried — it’s all over the Internet — but I’m shocked at the content of the message that PMS sent home,” Mr. McDaid stated in a Facebook message to The Portsmouth Times. “Over-the-top asssertions about maggots, drug use, and respiratory arrest without providing any source is, in my opinion, not appropriate communication around an issue like this.”
Mr. McDaid’s son Jack is an eighth-grade student at the school. “He literally doubled over with laughter when I asked him about this,” Mr. McDaid said.
The e-mail took other parents by surprise as well.
“I thought it was a joke at first,” said Barbara Kemper, who has a fourth-grade son at the school. “I hadn’t heard of this and neither did my kids. We discussed it at dinner and they thought I was making it up, especially the part about the maggots.”
Another parent Thursday said her children had also never heard of the practice supposedly going on at the school.
In an e-mail sent to the Portsmouth Times Friday morning, School Committee David Croston said the middle school e-mail was sent based on factual knowledge by school administrators of the activities described in the note.
“I can not address the content of the email. I do believe this activity models very unhealthy and risky behavior. I applaud the middle school administration in its prompt notification to parents,” Mr. Croston wrote. “As I said to Hard Deadlines, I had a discussion with my sixth grade daughter this evening. We have made an effort all year to raise awareness of the risks of unhealthy behavior. In two weeks we will join school districts nationally to celebrate Project Purple week, a week highlighting healthy choices. The dissemination of information to parents is the core of the trust relationship we have with parents, students and the community.”
(Note: An earlier version of this story stated that Mr. Croston did not immediately respond to an e-mail from the Portsmouth Times. Mr. Croston, however, said he never received the e-mail.)
An NBC Atlanta news affiliate reported in November 2013 that a 9-year-old student at a Georgia elementary school had been suspended for two days after he was caught crushing up Smarties and inhaling the powder through his nose.
Similar stories have popped up in media reports in recent years. In some of them, experts are quoted as saying there is no “high” associated with the habit and that some students “smoke” the candy simply to copy the behavior of adults.
Here’s the full message from the middle school that was e-mailed today to parents:
“A message from PORTSMOUTH MIDDLE SCHOOL
“Important Health Advisory for Parents Regarding the Candy, Smarties
We have recently become aware of an unsafe, new trend among some of our middle school students – smoking or snorting the candy, Smarties. Our research has taught us this is a widespread phenomenon and is the subject of many You-Tube videos. To smoke Smarties, students crush the candies into a fine powder while it is still in its wrapper, tear off an end, pour the powder into their mouths and blow out the smoke. Some are able to put the powder into their mouths and blow it out their noses. Thus, they imitate a smoker’s exhale. To snort Smarties, students use a straw or a rolled up piece of paper to snort the fine, crushed candy powder up into their nasal cavities. .
“The “benefit” for students engaging in this practice is unknown. However, the risks, associated with inhaling Smarties smoke or snorting Smarties, are many and include:
“Cuts- if the Smarties have not been finely crushed, pieces may act like razor blades cutting the tissue with which they come in contact.
“Infection – sugar residue may remain in the nasal cavity, sinuses and/or lungs. This residue may lead to infections, cough, wheezing, and possible respiratory arrest.
“Scarring of the nasal cavity – anything snorted can lead to scarring of the nasal passages. Also if a piece of the Smartie becomes lodged in the nasal cavity it may need to be removed by a specialist.
“Irritation of the lungs – smoking or snorting Smarties can lead to a smoker’s cough which can cause laryngospasms causing the voice box to spasm or close.
“Allergic reaction – if the child is allergic to sugar, snorting or smoking Smarties can lead to an immediate allergic reaction.
“Possible Maggots – Dr. Oren Friedman, a Mayo Clinic nose specialist, has cautioned that frequent snorting could even rarely lead to maggots feeding on the sugary dust wedged inside the nose.
“Precursor to future cigarette smoking and drug use – although there is no addictive piece to Smarties, the concern is this behavior may lead to cigarette smoking or snorting of drugs.”