Passing the Cinnamon Challenge Means Epic Fail for Teens
In their attempt to make the leap from childhood to adulthood, it is natural for young people to push boundaries. Unfortunately, when combined with the potent effects of peer pressure, this tendency can sometimes lead them to indulge in foolish or dangerous behaviors, as they compete with each other to see who is willing to take the greatest risk in order to prove his or her maturity and fearlessness.
This troubling dynamic is undoubtedly motivating one of the newest teen fads, the so-called “cinnamon challenge.” The goal of this activity is to swallow an entire spoonful of cinnamon in 60 seconds or less, without washing it down with water or any other liquid. If successful, those who take the cinnamon challenge are encouraged to upload video evidence of their “accomplishment” to the Internet, preferably on YouTube where the whole world will be able to see it.
While harmless when used in small amounts, cinnamon taken in larger doses will cause choking, gagging, coughing, vomiting, and a painful burning sensation thanks to its strong caustic qualities. As the cinnamon is coughed back up, some will inevitably be inhaled into the lungs, where it can cause episodes of severe respiratory distress, and, in some extreme cases, can cause the lungs to collapse. As if this weren’t bad enough, cinnamon contains significant quantities of an organic compound called coumarin, which has been shown in tests to be toxic to the liver, kidneys and lungs and may also cause cancer if consumed or inhaled in large enough doses. Based on the latest research findings, the tolerable daily intake (TDI) of coumarin for the average person has now been set at a level that can easily be exceeded just by sprinkling cinnamon on toast a few times per week, but the amount consumed by teens taking the cinnamon challenge exceeds this quantity by a sizable margin.
Word about the cinnamon challenge has been spreading rapidly on social networking sites. It’s been estimated that more than 40,000 videos of teens taking part in this activity have been uploaded to YouTube alone. Apparently young people have been swallowing cinnamon on a dare or because they thought it sounded cool, for the better part of a decade, but things now appear to have reached a tipping point: according to a study recently published in the online medical journal Pediatrics, in the first half of 2012 there were 222 calls to poison centers in the United States related to excessive cinnamon consumption, while at least 30 adolescents required hospitalization for treatment of the adverse reactions they suffered after taking part in this dangerous practice.
Stupid Is as Stupid Does
So far there have been no reported fatalities associated with cinnamon swallowing. But because of cinnamon’s powerful effects on the respiratory system, it may be only a matter of time before a real tragedy occurs, and those suffering from asthma or other similar breathing disorders may be particularly at risk should they choose to take the cinnamon challenge. And of course the extreme amounts of coumarin being consumed by challenge participants may be causing significant damage that won’t become apparent until several years later.
Ironically, the sudden popularity of cinnamon swallowing may eventually lead to its demise. Fads have a tendency to come and go, and with so many videos of kids taking the cinnamon challenge now available online, the novelty may pass even more quickly than would normally be the case. But until the cinnamon challenge does finally fade into obscurity, all we can do is cross our fingers and pray that no young person is forced to pay the ultimate price because he or she couldn’t resist the dubious lure of such a silly and stupid stunt.