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Most people are probably familiar with the little rolls of powdery, sugary candy "tablets" frequently given out at Halloween. Yes, we're talking about "Smarties", but the little candy has been making unwelcome news headlines lately, with stories of kids "smoking" the candy.
Apparently, the practice isn't really so much "smoking" (there's no fire involved), as much as snorting or inhaling and then blowing out candy "smoke". Kids have taken to this practice for a variety of misguided reasons. One teen told the Wall Street Journal that "smoking Smarties [is] a 'cultural phenomenon' and says he likes it because 'it looks like you're smoking something but you're not.'" One YouTube user thought of it more as a prank, "To freak your mom out, sit behind a chair and just blow smoke up in the air with your mom in the room."
The WSJ described how kids go about smoking Smarties as follows:
"They crushed it into a fine powder in its wrapper, tore off one end, poured the powder into their mouths and blew out fine Smarties dust, mimicking a smoker's exhale."
That doesn't sound exceedingly alarming at first glance, but health experts say that "smoking" smarties is not too smart. A Mayo Clinic nose specialist "cautioned that frequent use could lead to infections or even worse, albeit rare, conditions, such as maggots that feed on sugary dust wedged inside the nose." It's probably tough for parents to come up with something more effective to convince their kids not to try this fad than by telling them they could end up with maggots up their nose.
Although a quick online search doesn't turn up any noteable injuries associated with smoking Smarties for purposes of legal liability, the candy's maker, Ce De Candy of New Jersey, is still not thrilled with this kind of publicity. The company's vice president of sales and marketing, Eric Ostrow, told the WSJ that smoking their product is "just dumb." However, the Business Insider also noted just how easy it is for an undesireable fad to catch fire in today's social-media world. Even though many of the YouTube videos were made long ago, it is only recently that one "video now appears near the top of the Google results page in a more general search for just 'Smarties.'" Ostrow continued, "It's certainly not endorsed by us. We don't endorse smoking, but we can't control what people do out there."
Companies face a tough task in how they deal with their brand and/or product being associated with an undesireable practice, such as smoking (which Ce De Candy actually banned at its factory in the 1980s, well ahead of its time). Although many might say that any PR is good PR, the association of kids, candy, and smoking might be a bit much. But for now, the company is apparently opting to simply disassociate itself with the practice and hope that the whole issue will blow over.
On the bright side, recent news stories have highlighted a government study noting that "[f]ewer teens are sniffing glue, lighter fluid, spray paint, shoe polish and other easy-to-find substances." Regardless, parents still might want to go ahead and just give their kids a heads up to be smart and just eat their Smarties.