It’s being billed across the Internet as a “dangerous new trend.” But in Scarborough, the idea of students snorting crushed-up candy is so 2011.

Three years ago, the Scarborough Middle School principal sent a letter to parents warning them of the danger of snorting crushed Smarties candy. Inhaling the sugary dust through the nose could lead to irritation, infection and even nasal maggots, the letter warned.

That letter – and the fear of nasal maggots – was resurrected last week as the Los Angeles Times, USA Today, the United Kingdom’s Daily Mail and other media outlets wrote about snorting Smarties. Many media outlets cited the Scarborough Middle School letter as an example of concern over the practice. A middle school in Portsmouth, R.I., sent a nearly identical letter to parents last week.

“We’re a trendsetter for one thing, apparently,” said Rob Pellerin, the school resource officer at Scarborough Middle School, who noted he has never heard of students at the school actually snorting the candy.

So is snorting Smarties even a thing? According to YouTube, it is. On Friday, there were more than 1,500 videos on YouTube of people – mostly middle school age – crushing up the pill-size candy and snorting it.

It’s not exactly a new thing, however.

Some of those YouTube videos are at least six years old. Back in 2009, The Wall Street Journal published an article about sixth-graders in Frisco, Colo., “smoking” Smarties. Some students simply blew out the sugary dust to mimic smoke, while others perfected the art of blowing “smoke” rings, according to the article.

In a 2011 blog post, Scarborough Middle School Principal Barbara Hathorn said the school was having “a bit of a problem” with Smarties. They were a distraction to students, who were asked to leave them at home. A week later, after some Internet research on what kids could be doing with the candy, a letter went home to parents about the “phenomenon” of snorting Smarties happening across the country.

The appeal of snorting Smarties is unknown, according to the letter, but the risks of inhaling the candy are clear. Razor-like shards of Smarties could cut the inside of the nose, infection could set in, lungs could become irritated and scarring could occur in the nasal cavity, it says.

Citing Dr. Oren Friedman, a Mayo Clinic nose specialist, the letter said it is possible that snorting Smarties “could even rarely lead to maggots feeding on the sugary dust wedged inside the nose.”

That last warning got the attention of students at the middle school, said Pellerin, the school resource officer. Pellerin, who also teaches the DARE drug prevention program to fifth-graders, said he first heard of the alternative use of Smarties from students who asked him about the dangers.

“People would ask me a lot about it back then, but I haven’t heard anything about it since,” Pellerin said. “It was very strange.”

As strange as it seemed, Pellerin wasn’t surprised students would hear about this type of fad, whether it’s new or one that has been kicking around the Internet for years.

“They’re right on top of everything,” he said. “Social media is just so big, it’s unbelievable.”

YouTube videos have helped fuel other bizarre food-related trends. There are 627,000 videos of people trying (and failing) to win the “cinnamon challenge,” in which a person tries to swallow a spoonful of the dry spice. Thousands of others have filmed themselves chugging a gallon of milk in the “gallon challenge” or struggling to swallow six saltines in 60 seconds in the “saltine challenge.”

No one could be reached at the Smarties Candy Co. in Union, N.J., on Friday to comment on the latest news about its signature candy, but a company manager dismissed the alleged craze in a 2009 interview with The Wall Street Journal.

“It’s just dumb,” said Eric Ostrow.

Gillian Graham can be contacted at 791-6315 or at:

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Twitter: @grahamgillian