The Cinnamon Challenge

Most parents have probably heard of the cinnamon challenge by now. Briefly for those who haven’t – it’s a YouTube-driven “craze” where (mostly) teens attempt to swallow a tablespoon of ground cinnamon, usually resulting in an explosion of coughing and laughter.

This is one of 768,000 videos on YouTube showing people doing the Cinnamon Challenge

This is one of 768,000 videos on YouTube showing people doing the Cinnamon Challenge

Most of us have also probably read plenty of news items warning against this stunt, such as this one on this week: Doctors warn teens against dangerous ‘cinnamon challenge’ prank.

There’s been a lot of extra coverage over the past week because of a new report about how the stunt has led to a growing number of calls to poison control centres and visits to emergency rooms. The report’s author Dr Steven Lipshultz says inhaling cinnamon can lead to “chronic inflammation and eventually scarring of the lungs, something we call pulmonary fibrosis”.

From Ingesting and Aspirating Dry Cinnamon by Children and Adolescents: The “Cinnamon Challenge” [download PDF]:

As of August 10, 2012, there were 51 100 YouTube clips depicting the Cinnamon Challenge. One video was viewed .19 million times, predominantly by 13- to 24-year-olds, ages similar to people taking the Cinnamon Challenge and associated with the greatest need for conformity.

These videos have raised concerns of choking, aspiration, and pulmonary damage. In most cases, the effects are temporary, yet the Cinnamon Challenge has led to dozens of calls to poison centers, emergency department visits, and even hospitalizations for adolescents requiring ventilator support for collapsed lungs.

Taking a different angle, US blogger and mother of teens Jessica Gottlieb believes the hysteria is just that, and there’s not too much to get worried about (unless your kid has asthma) in The Cinnamon Challenge is KILLING OUR KIDS (yes, the title is ironic):

“Is the cinnamon challenge good for you? Probably not. Is it smart? Nothing that makes a mess on my kitchen counter is smart. Is every news outlet in America going to spend the week getting shrill with Oh My Gawd Collapsed Lung!? Yes. That will happen. We love to save the children, social media is bad for the children, memes are bad for the children, ingesting spices is bad for the children and while you’re at it stop saying The F Word so much the children have delicate ears.

“This new breed of hysteria is obscene.”

Jessica argues that the 100 people who called the Poisons Hotline in the US did so because they or their kids coughed. She points out there was  one meaningful injury – an asthmatic child suffered a collapsed lung.

“If you tell your kid that the cinnamon challenge is going to kill them and 763 million videos show them that you’re wrong they will never believe you when you tell them about the things that really are dangerous.”

Read Jessica’s full blog post here.

Here are a couple more articles that take a fairly reasonable approach:

– How dangerous is the cinnamon challenge, really? [The Week]

– 5 reasons not to take the cinnamon challenge [Forbes]

Do you agree with Jessica that there is no need to get too concerned? It’s dumb but generally not dangerous?

Or would you still try to scare your kids off it?

Did we do anything this dumb as teenagers, or does it take the Internet to drive such a craze?




  1. My immediate thought was “What is wrong with this generation?!” but then I started thinking about the crazy things we used to do (sans internet). Using a compass to etch our boyfriends’ initials into our skin then sprinkling pencil lead into the wound? Cutting a chunk out of your hair on the crown of your head? The list goes on….

  2. ^^ Sammy, I also used a compass and pencil lead to tattoo my boyfriends initials into my hand! LOL!
    I would rather my kids did not do the Cinnamon Challenge, but they will probably do something else that is just as dangerous and stupid and Jackass like that I (hopefully) will never know about. I’m trying to raise them to be pretty good kids, but you know….I love Jessica Gottlieb’s take on the cinnamon epidemic, and although I am not completely relaxed about it, I dislike the wowser sensational line that the media takes.
    Lisa Barton-Collins recently posted..3 Fun Educational ActivitiesMy Profile

  3. If its not the Cinnamon challenge it will be something else, and the simple fact of the matter is there is risk in just about everything we do. I can’t even begin to list the ridiculous stuff I did as a teenage, that’s a whole blog post of its own! But I think Lisa is right in that if we get hysterical about this it then lessens the warnings for things that truly are seriously risky and dangerous.
    Kylez @ A Study in Contradictions recently posted..The Week that WasMy Profile

    • It does make sense that if we apply the same level of opposition to activities that actually have different risk profiles, then kids won’t be able to trust our advice.

  4. What an odd thing to do. Then again we used to hold our breath whilst someone picked you up to make you pass out. Now that was seriously dangerous (not saying the cinnamon thing isn’t, just dont know enough about it to make a judgement).
    Becc @ Take Charge Now
    Becc recently posted..Eye Popping!My Profile

  5. There’s always a ‘craze’ of some description. They’re kids. Where I grew up, playing on the train tracks and tunneling through sewers was the ‘thing’ that the cool kids did. You usually had to know someone to go off and try it yourself. These days, with the net, kids learn about these things more easily… Most party tricks are hilarious, until someone gets hurt…
    Robomum recently posted..MOTY?My Profile

    • Thekids says:

      Kids learn about these things more easily, and so do the parents! I bet our parents didn’t know we were on train tracks and in sewers. I’m always torn between wanting to know and believing ignorance is bliss.

    • Back in our childhood my older sister and I had a friend who drowned whilst playing in the Storm Water drains (flash flood caught him out). Kids still do it today…
      Luckily (for me anyway) my kids are more than happy to just watch others go through the motions via Youtube without the need to replicate it themselves.
      There will always be children (and adults) that want to do the risky things, we just hope that the consequences aren’t dire – to quote a recent movie “may the odds be ever in your (their) favour”.

      • Thekids says:

        That’s awful Storm, and it still happens too often. I do think sometimes that kids aren’t thinking of the risks. I am thinking of those poor boys at Kew, NSW recently who were collecting golf balls on a golf course (which was closed) – they were washed into a stormwater drain, and one of the boys drowned. I don’t think they were intentionally playing around the drains or taking risks – they just didn’t see the risk involved.

        • Agreed. I don’t think kids go looking for trouble per say, more so adventure. I don’t think we can wrap kids up in cotton wool and suck the fun out of life as they will always want to test themselves / boundaries. We just hope that common sense will prevail in the end, though I believe a lot comes down to luck.

  6. I must say that this is the first I have heard about this. I must be living under a rock. Thanks for the heads up, I will be sure to keep an eye on my adventurous teen !!
    Beck/craftypjmum recently posted..Teen CrossroadsMy Profile

  7. Hahaha. I haven’t heard about this before, but I think it’s hilarious. I think the hype is unjustified. Let kids be kids. This is something they can do legally and (relatively) safely. My kids are too young now, but I think I would try to do the challenge with them – although by then I’m sure they’d think I was too uncool to let me play along.
    Danya Banya recently posted..The One Where JJ Almost Gets Hit By A CarMy Profile

  8. Well, planking happened not too long ago! I’d much rather they do something with cinnamon rather than fall off a building.
    Etching a guy’s name with a compass…ouch! I only did that on erasers 🙂
    Grace recently posted..Of Poo and Parking TicketsMy Profile

  9. mimbles says:

    I knew someone when I was in first year uni who snorted a line of salt because someone dared him to, my eyes still water at the memory. Anyway, I hear the cinnamon thing is so yesterday, have you heard about the condom up through the nose and out through the mouth trick?

  10. I think there are some valid fears with the cinnamon challenge, mostly that such a fine powder really can be breathed into the lungs – aspirate pneumonia , however, chances of it killing an otherwise healthy teen is slim. Inconvenient, nasty and ugly but it won’t kill them.
    The Chubby Bunny challenge -stuffing as many marshmallows in their mouth as they can fit scares the crap out of me as that is waaaayyy more dangerous, choking has occurred many times, on school camps, sleepovers etc.
    I try to tell my kids why something like this is dangerous, but I save my ‘wowser-mummy-outrage’ for the big things.
    Lisa – lybliss recently posted..You will always know -AdvocatingMy Profile

    • Thekids says:

      Just checked out chubby bunny – I hadn’t heard of it. I am thinking this is something I would have tried. Thank goodness this stage of our lives is short.

      • Chubby bunny is gross – all those uncooked marshmallows in your mouth. Bleh. The only good marshmallow is one toasted on a stick over an open fire. My lolly party trick of choice is tying knots in snakes inside your mouth with your tongue.

        Wait a minute…you mean I’m not supposed to do that sort of thing anymore?

        • Thekids says:

          Well, as you are clearly very skilled and unlikely to suffer an injury, you should be encouraged 🙂

  11. It’s so hard – there is such a fine line between wanting to know and being ignorant and blissful !!!
    I don’t have a home done tattoo – so you aren’t alone !
    Personally I can’t see the point of it but then a lot of things don’t have a point do they ? When I was a kid I loved the smell of vanilla essence and one day my Mom was out and I went and had a huge swig of the vanilla essence bottle – man was I shocked at the taste – never did that again – LOL.
    Have the best day !



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