Portsmouth school defended for Smarties e-mail

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smarties_georgehoweco__10658.1349205620.1280.1280PORTSMOUTH — The leader of the town’s substance abuse task force has defended Portsmouth Middle School’s e-mail Thursday that warned parents of some students’ habit of snorting or smoking the candy Smarties.

The e-mail caused confusion on the part of some parents and was described as “hysterical” by local blogger John McDaid. It’s since gone viral and has even been mocked by the popular website, Barstool Sports Boston.

But Ray Davis, coordinator of the Portsmouth Prevention Coalition, said he supported the e-mail’s tone as well as the information it contained.

“I don’t work for the school department, but I have to hand it to them. They handled it appropriately. My hats off to them for doing that. I think they did a good job,” Mr. Davis said Friday.

Mr. Davis said he was a Rhode Island inhalant abuse trainer for several years and made presentations in several states.

“Several years ago there was a huge problem with inhalants in Rhode Island,” he said. “It tends to be the younger kids who do these things.”

Mr. Davis said he didn’t deal with children who were inhaling candy but rather products such as Dust-Off, a refrigerant-based propellant cleaner used to remove dust and debris from electronic equipment.

Still, he said news of children inhaling Smarties or any other candy is troublesome.

“I don’t think there are any chemicals in it that would cause serious repercussions, but what’s important is that those things were never meant to be stuck up in your nose. It’s a dangerous path to be going down,” he said, adding that it could “absolutely” lead to the abuse of alcohol or drugs.

Mr. Davis said he was contacted Wednesday night by a parent whose son had discussed the Smarties issue. “That parent then notified the school,” he said.

The school department was wise to send the e-mail regardless of how many children have engaged in the habit, he said. “Even if just two kids were doing that, I’m glad that they did that. I’d rather have these conversation now than to pick up the paper and find out some kid did this and something happened to him,” he said.

One concern Mr. Davis has is with the amount of detail some media outlets have included in their stories about the Smarties e-mail. Some reports basically contain a “how-to” on smoking or snorting the candy, he said.

“Inhaling anything is really very dangerous and printing instructions on how to do that doesn’t help, either,” he said. “It was always stressed in trainings not to give the details on how to when speaking to youth.”

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