Last week, it was reported that fifth-graders at Paxton Keeley Elementary School were participating in an activity known as “candy snorting.” In this particular case, students were smashing up Smarties candies into powder to inhale through the nose. While this is no new phenomenon, the fact that candy snorting has been brought to light in the Columbia community is hard to ignore.
Paxton Keeley Principal Elaine Hassemer sent a letter to parents of all fifth-graders at the school on Friday alerting them to the situation and to health risks. Candy snorting “has been occurring at recess time and in the restrooms during the school day,” the letter states.
As the reporter on this story, I first wondered what the appeal was for children as young as 11 or 12 to snort candy. Why were they doing this? I certainly had never heard of the concept, even though it’s been occurring at schools from the elementary level all the way up through high school. My roommate told me that snorting was a huge deal at her elementary school, and that was at least 10 years ago. A friend of mine admitted to doing it when he was younger. Intrigued, I did more research on the topic and found that it is more popular than I would have assumed.
Although there is no one reason why children and teenagers are snorting candy, educators and professionals are generally chalking it up to “looking cool” or “fitting in.” Some even believe snorting may be a precursor to other behaviors such as smoking cigarettes or using drugs. However, when I spoke with Sarah Sadewhite, Paxton Keeley school counselor, she said peer pressure is largely at the forefront of the activity.
“We feel like the students were either probably pressured or thought something about snorting was fun or looked cool so they wanted to experiment,” she said.
Sadewhite said Paxton Keeley is now tailoring their curriculum for students to include the dangers of inhalants and handling peer pressure after the snorting incident. Students involved with the incident will get a specific curriculum, she said.
After speaking with Eliav Gov-Ari, an ear nose and throat specialist at MU, I learned the potential risks involved with candy snorting, which were outlined in the letter sent home to parents and can be found in the Missourian story. Bleeding in the nasal cavity, choking and infection are among them. Gov-Ari said, “The idea of things going through your nose is a bad thing in my opinion: You start with candy today and who knows what you’ll use next in college.”
Hassemer said YouTube has contributed to the publicity of candy snorting with how-to videos. After searching for some of them myself and with my editor, we decided to not include links to the videos for obvious reasons — we didn’t want to encourage the behavior. But, looking at just one video makes you cringe and wonder why children are putting themselves through this, especially when there is no actual drug-like high as a result of candy snorting. Gov-Ari said the closest sensation that can result is a sugar high, which one would arguably get by simply eating the candy.
Though candy snorting has been around for years and not likely to disappear any time soon, it may be worthwhile to investigate the root of the phenomenon. Some may wave it off as non-dangerous behavior compared to using drugs or smoking, but too many children and teenagers are participating in candy snorting for it not to be taken seriously.