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The cinnamon challenge is a viral internet food challenge. The objective of the challenge is to film oneself swallowing a spoonful of ground cinnamon in under 60 seconds without drinking anything, then upload the video to the Internet. The challenge is difficult and carries substantial health risks because the cinnamon coats and dries the mouth and throat, resulting in coughing, gagging, vomiting and inhaling of cinnamon, leading to throat irritation, breathing difficulties, and risk of pneumonia or a collapsed lung.
The challenge has been described online since 2001, and increased in popularity in 2007.[non-primary source needed] By 2010, many people had posted videos of themselves attempting this challenge on YouTube and other social networking websites. The cinnamon challenge continues to be active, with Twitter mentions peaking at nearly 70,000 per day in January 2012. It is similar to the saltine cracker challenge, which involves ingesting at least seven saltine crackers (also known as soda crackers) within 60 seconds without drinking anything, the Gallon challenge, and the Banana Sprite challenge.
The stunt can be dangerous. There is a risk of gagging on the cinnamon, especially if it forms a clump and clogs one's airways. Accidental inhalation of cinnamon can seriously damage the lungs by causing inflammation and leading to infection. Furthermore, due to the moderately toxic chemical compound coumarin present in cinnamon, European health agencies have warned against consuming it in large amounts. The usual result of this stunt is "a coughing, gagging fit involving clouds of cinnamon" which "leaves some people gasping for air". Sometimes those performing the stunt may gag and accidentally exhale the cinnamon through their noses. This often results in considerable irritation, discomfort, burning, or itching of the affected nasal tissue and nostrils. On YouTube, those afflicted with discomfort from nasal exhaling of cinnamon have been observed irrigating their noses or wiping their nostrils vigorously in an effort to relieve the irritation. Vomiting is also a possibility. However, the risks can be worse: a high-school student in Michigan spent four days in a hospital after attempting the cinnamon challenge. Pneumonia and collapsed lungs can also result from the challenge.
In the first three months of 2012, American poison control centers had received over a hundred phone calls as a result of the cinnamon challenge. While potentially hazardous, no deaths have been specifically linked to participation in the activity.
The cinnamon challenge was aired on the twelfth series of the reality television show Big Brother UK, in which show participants were to ingest ground cinnamon without the aid of water. Radio programmes have also aired segments of people performing this stunt, and others in the public limelight have been reported as airing the stunt for public display, including NBA players Nick Young and JaVale McGee.
Many people upload their cinnamon challenge to YouTube. Comedian Colleen Ballinger told The Wall Street Journal that she took the challenge in character as Miranda Sings in February 2012, to increase her YouTube views after hundreds of her fans had asked her to take the challenge. Her video received 70,000 views after one week and later accumulated more than 1 million views. Another comedian, GloZell Green, has attracted more than 38 million views with her cinnamon challenge video, in which she takes a full soup ladle's worth of cinnamon instead of the usual teaspoon.
In a 2012 episode of the Discovery Channel series MythBusters, each member of the Build Team attempted the challenge. Kari Byron and Grant Imahara failed, while Tory Belleci completed it by tucking his spoonful into his cheek and letting saliva accumulate in his mouth until he could swallow. However, it took him more than 60 seconds to do so.
In the 2013 episode of Chicago Fire titled "Defcon 1", a cinnamon challenge is held to determine who will get to live in Severide's new apartment. The challenge is abandoned, and the team is reprimanded by the chief.