While it may seem like just a foolish fad, “smoking” Smarties can pose serious health risks both in terms of physical health and future risk-taking behaviors. The practice of smoking Smarties involves crushing the candy into a powder and inhaling it through the end of the oblong wrapper giving the appearance of inhaling and exhaling smoke. Concern over smoking Smarties has been widely echoed throughout the news media including reputable sources like the Wall Street Journal.
A sinus infection occurs when the mucus lining of the sinus cavity becomes inflamed. Inhaling the fine sugar powder created when Smarties are crushed can irritate the sinuses to the point that they become infected. Sinus infections cause headaches and can be treated either medically with antibiotics or naturally with a neti pot, a sinus cleansing system. If a sinus infection goes untreated, there is the danger that it could spread into the nervous system and cause meningitis, a life-threatening condition.
Inhaling a fine powder such as crushed Smarties can cause the voice box to spasm and close, a condition known as laryngospasm. If a person experiences laryngospasm, the condition can sometimes be relieved by placing the fingers behind the ears and massaging what Dr. Phillip Larson of Standford University calls thelaryngospasm notch.
More troubling even than the risks posed by smoking Smarties to physical health, is what the behavior says about the magnitude of peer pressure and the willingness to engage in other risk-taking behaviors. Trying out different roles and behaviors is a natural part of adolescent development, but if the risk-taking behavior is rewarded by positive peer feedback or indifference by adult role models it is reinforced and becomes more likely to be repeated or escalate. Beyond the risks to physical health, smoking Smarties mimics the far more dangerous and addictive behavior of tobacco smoking.
Risk-taking behaviors are influenced by the way people think about the behaviors themselves. By discussing the health risks associated with smoking Smarties, parents and teachers can help raise awareness about the dangers of what is seen as a harmless alternative to tobacco by many teenagers. Risk-takers often feed off of the encouragement of bystanders. Another way to end the behavior of smoking Smarties is by changing the way that bystanders react by pointing out how ridiculous the practice is. As warnings against the practice of smoking Smarties were echoed throughout the media, comedians were quick to pick up on the theme. The television comedy series "Tosh.0" mocked the concern over the behavior, warning that smoking Smarties was a gateway behavior to harder candies.