Tech + Health

01.23.14

Parents Panic Over Old Fake Smarties Snorting Craze

A Rhode Island middle school has warned parents that kids risk “nasal maggots” and future drug use if they inhale the rainbow candy pellets. Why the panic is overblown.

If you haven’t noticed a multi-colored powdery substance caked in your pre-teen’s nostrils, better take a closer look.

Administrators at a Rhode Island middle school have warned parents about a dangerous “new trend” among students: snorting Smarties (not a street name for a highly addictive amphetamine, but the chalky candy pellets). In an email advisory, Portsmouth Middle School lists the risks—culled from unidentified “research”—associated with the alleged fad, including nasal infection, lung irritation, future cigarette smoking and drug use, and “possible maggots...feeding on the sugary dust wedged inside the nose.” No, this isn’t the plot of a horror film, but the grotesque potential outcome of your child’s deviant behavior, according to Portsmouth Middle School’s crack squad of candy drug experts.

The Smarties craze has since been reported in local and international news outlets, from ABC and CBS to Britain’s The Daily Mail (which, like CBS, referenced “nasal maggots” in their headline, as if a candy-snorting epidemic isn’t sensationalist enough.)

But the only epidemic in this case is a moral one—an outbreak of chimerical social concern, existing only in the fevered minds of Portsmouth Middle School administrators. (There is no empirical data suggesting snorting Smarties or smoking candy cigarettes makes kids more likely to experiment with the hard stuff.) When officials and parents aren’t cracking down on kids experimenting with real drugs, they’re panicking about kids mimicking drug experimentation—and a resulting case of Maggot Nose.

When officials and parents aren’t cracking down on kids experimenting with real drugs, they’re panicking about kids mimicking drug experimentation—and a resulting case of Maggot Nose.

Still, finding larva in your child’s tissues is hardly worth fretting over when compared to the zombie-like side effects of consuming “bath salts.” Or the STDs your kid could contract at a “Rainbow Party,” in which girls wear different shades of lipstick while performing oral sex. Or perhaps the plague of Strawberry Quick-flavored meth that was luring children into a life of addiction and penury.  

Turns out, the Smarties-snorting “trend” isn’t even new. In fact, various media outlets have re-reported what has effectively been a faux gateway-drug story for at least 10 years. Last November, a nine-year-old’s suspension for inhaling Smarties at Porterdale Elementary School in Georgia made local headlines. In March, Pennsylvania’s Eastern Express Times highlighted middle schoolers’ nasal Smartie consumption as a “bizarre practice” that parents should add “to the list of things to address with your children.” Local papers reported the supposedly new fad twice in 2011 among middle school students in Alabama and Oklahoma. In 2009, the Wall Street Journal published “Just Say No…To Smarties?” in response to a series of YouTube videos showing kids “smoking” the candy, shoving packets in their mouths, and blowing clouds of sugar dust out of their nasal passages. And way back in 2005 a Salt Lake City newspaper acknowledged that “Disguising drugs as candy, or vice versa, is by no means a new phenomenon.” (The author reminisced that, back when he was in middle school, his “sixth-grade classmates got a kick out of my buddy and I snorting chopped up Smarties through Pixy Stix on the backs of our Trapper Keepers.”)

Indeed, Portsmouth Middle School students—like the journalists reporting on the Smartie-snorting epidemic—are late to the party. But nevertheless, parents should be inspecting the nostrils of their young ones, searching for sugar residue and burrowing larvae.