The YouTube Cinnamon Challenge: Hilarious or Hazardous?

YouTube is littered with videos of people attempting to swallow a spoonful of cinnamon. The results are comical, but the health effects are no joke.

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It sounds pretty harmless: dare someone to swallow a tablespoonful of cinnamon in under 60 seconds without drinking anything. This game, known as the “cinnamon challenge,” has been around for decades, but thanks to YouTube, it’s become a popular meme within the last few years.

Yes, watching someone attempt the cinnamon challenge is hilarious. See the above video for proof. And indeed, it seems the goal isn’t really to succeed at swallowing the cinnamon (it’s nearly impossible) but rather to share your gasping, spitting, arm-waving pain with the entire Internet as the spice erupts from your mouth in a wispy cloud.

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As it turns out, this actually could be quite dangerous. The website dedicated to the cinnamon challenge warns, “Do not attempt the cinnamon challenge without talking with a doctor.” It adds, “Obviously they are going to tell you not to do it … so watch movies of people already feeling the pain.”

That seems to make sense. The whole point of the Internet is to anonymously watch people doing stupid things and either laugh at them or criticize them or both. (And also to watch cat videos.) But apparently teens across the nation still feel compelled to try the cinnamon challenge on their own. High school students in Michigan have been sent to the hospital after attempting the stunt, CBS Detroit reports. Health officials say the coughing, choking and vomiting that often result from the game can starve the body of oxygen. And if the spice gets caught in the lungs, it could cause pneumonia.

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School districts have begun warning students about the dangers of the cinnamon challenge, though it seems some school officials don’t quite understand the viral craze to begin with. “They do it just for a buzz, you know, a high … get kicks off of it,” Arthur Williams, principal of Huron High in Ann Arbor, Mich., told WWJ Newsradio 950.

But this phenomenon is primarily borne of a fascination with ridiculous Internet shenanigans, not of a desire to feel “a buzz.” Video after video reveals that attempting the challenge is really not pleasurable in the slightest. And despite the potential hazards, people will likely continue jumping on the cinnamon challenge bandwagon, as millions upon millions of YouTube viewers await their next thrill.

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