snorting smarties

Smarties doc hopes maggot threat will "dissuade children from snorting" [update]

After breaking the story of the Portsmouth school district "Smartie snorting" memo, harddeadlines reached out to the doctor who was quoted, Dr. Oren Friedman, Associate Professor, Otorhinolaryngology at the University of Pennsylvania. We asked if he had specifically studied Smartie snorting and if he could comment on the incidence and prevalence of Smarties-related maggot infestation. Here's his unedited reply.

We did not do a study on this in particular....however...we often see patients with foreign materials in their noses which can cause a variety of problems -- even years after the insult occurs. I recently removed an oyster shell from a 27 year old woman who had no idea it had been there. when I showed her what was in her nose, she said "I'm going to kill them" -- she remembered that when she was 5 or 6 years old, her older brothers were playing with these shells when they were at the beach, and she believed they inserted it into her nose when she was asleep. Just a funny anecdote that relates to the fact that things placed in the nose can remain there for years and cause problems over the long term.

The sugar in smarties can irritate the nose acutely and over the long term. In addition to the local irritation from the foreign material and powder, over time, the smarties can lead to various overgrowth of bugs including viruses/fungi/bacteria. The quote regarding the maggots relates to the fact that when a foreign material, and especially a food, resides in the nose for a long period of time, infections may occur, worms may reside in the nose, even maggots may flourish in this environment -- and we have encountered such a problem in the past. Hopefully the thought of possible maggots in the nose will help dissuade children from snorting the smarties.

When asked in a followup if he had actually ever seen Smarties cause maggots, he replied, "just a possibility. i have seen maggots in the nose from other food products in general."

So, the one actual quoted source in the memo sent to parents describes the threat as only a "possibility." There's no way to verify the claims about respiratory arrest, laryngospasm, or leading to drugs.

I’m not questioning that this may be something that kids have tried — one source told me kids had been seen doing it on Tuesday. But I’m shocked at the sloppy, loopy, cut-and-paste content of the message that PMS sent home. Parents deserve better communication from those responsible for their children.

For pickup in other media, see Portsmouth Patch, EastBayRI, The Newport Buzz,,

Update: And...BoingBoing

Updates, 1/21 More pickup: BoingBoing again, Gawker, Washington Post, Daily Mail (UK), HuffPo (UK), CBS News

02871, Localblogging, Schools, snorting smarties

Portsmouth Middle school "Smarties snorting" scare [update]

In an e-mail sent to Portsmouth Middle School parents this afternoon, someone in the administration sent a rather hysterical warning about the dangers of snorting Smarties, a story which has been popping up on the Net since at least 2009, when the Wall Street Journal decided to cover this horrifying epidemic.

[Subject] Important Health Advisory


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.

I have an e-mail in to the principal and school committee chair David Croston to find out the source of this information. It uses phrases like "our research," and makes an assertion about Smarties leading to snorting drugs which I think deserve some footnoting.

Coming up next: the danger of dihydrogen monoxide. It's a major component of acid rain, and it's in our children's drinking fountains at school!

Update: 7:11pm Portsmouth School Committee chair Dave Croston responds.

I can not address the PMS email or it's source. I became aware of this issue earlier today. I can say only that this behavior raises troubling issue of modeling. It would be fair to say snorting Smarties would not be normal behavior. I support the Middle School informing its parents first hand. I leave it to parents to have discussions with their own middle schoolers, as I have had with my sixth grade daughter. I fully support the open and rapid dissemination of this information to parents.

Update 2 Read my interview with the former Mayo Clinic doc on Smarties nose maggots. (Hint: Never actually saw them in a patient.)

Editorial note: WTF?

02871, Localblogging, Schools, snorting smarties