By Jolie Lee
USA TODAY Network
A Rhode Island school is warning parents about students snorting crushed-up Smarties.
Portsmouth MIddle School officials in Portsmouth, R.I., told parents that snorting the fruit-flavored, tablet candy can lead to infection, laryngospasms and even maggots.
A notice e-mailed on Jan.16 to parents points to the influence of YouTube videos. A search for "snorting Smarties" on YouTube nets more than 1,300 results, with several how-to video clips, and some with students snorting the candy while in a classroom.
The school also warns parents about risks including allergies, scarring of the nasal cavity and a "precursor to future cigarette smoking and drug use."
To snort Smarties, students first ground the candy into a powder. Then they either put the powder into their mouths and exhale into their nostrils, or snort the powder through a straw or rolled-up piece of paper, according to the notice.
It's unclear whether any incidents of Smarties-snorting prompted the school's notices. USA TODAY Network left multiple messages with Portsmouth School District requesting a comment.
The snorting mimics sniffing cocaine, but "the 'benefit' for students engaging in this practice is unknown," according to the school's e-mail.
One Portsmouth parent called the e-mail "overkill."
John McDaid, the father of an eighth-grader and a citizen journalist who blogs at Hard Deadlines, said neither he nor his son had ever heard of any incident involving Smarties at the school.
"Respiratory arrest? Maggots in your nose?" McDaid said, who posted the school's e-mail on his blog. "That's much more Internet memes than it is sober advice from a school."
POTENTIAL HEALTH RISKS
Perhaps the most striking risk mentioned -- nasal maggots -- is actually a highly unlikely scenario.
"It's pretty far out there," said Laura Orvidas, a pediatric ear, nose and throat doctor at the Mayo Clinic Children's Center.
In order for maggots to develop, there must be dead tissue for the maggots to feed on and then there must be the "random fly" that lays eggs in there, Orvidas said.
Orvidas said she has seen maggots in a sinus cavity, but it was not from snorting Smarties.
Despite the long shot of getting maggots, "maybe it'll scare the kids to quit doing it," Orvidas said.
The more likely health problems associated with snorting the candy is getting the powder into the lungs, leading to an asthma attack or long-term breathing problems, she said.
NOT A NEW PHENOMENON
Two years ago in Maine, Scarborough Middle School teachers noticed students selling bags of Smarties.
"We said, OK, this is weird," said Barbara Hathorn, principal of the school in Scarborough, Maine. "So we started doing research and talking to kids and they said, 'Go on YouTube.' "
Hathorn said no one was ever caught snorting Smarties and the school administration banned students from bringing the candy to the school. The school sent home notices listing the risks of snorting the candy.
In 2009, The Wall Street Journal also reported on the act of smoking and snorting Smarties at a middle school in Frisco, Colo.
More recently, in November, several students at Porterdale Elementary School in Covington, Ga., were suspended for sniffing the crushed-up candy, said Chelsi Lewis, the mother of a third-grader who was among the students suspended.
Lewis said her son, 9-year-old Demitri Santiago, saw a girl in his class snorting the candy.
The girl "bent down on the desk and sniffed. She had this 'woo' sensation," Lewis said.
"It was an isolated incident, and the school sent out a letter to parents warning them about this type of behavior," said Sherri Viniard, director of public relations for Newton County Schools in Georgia.
The letter warned of "an unsafe new trend" of smoking or snorting Smarties.
Demitri told his mother that he didn't like the feeling of the powder in his nose. "He said his nose tickled and he was sneezing," Lewis said. She added, "He didn't know what he was doing was wrong or dangerous."
Follow @JolieLeeDC on Twitter
USA TODAY Network