JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A message on the deal-of-the-day website Groupon appears to be endorsing the "cinnamon challenge," in which people try to swallow a spoonful of cinnamon in less than a minute without water.
Hundreds of videos have surfaced on YouTube of people taking the challenge, and the results haven't been pretty.
According to a new report released by the Journal of Pediatrics, the rate of kids being hospitalized over the cinnamon challenge is soaring.
Groupon has yet to respond to Channel 4's questions about its endorsement, but Joey Parker calls the message irresponsible.
He and a friend took the cinnamon challenge, recorded their experience and put it on YouTube. Little did he know just how dangerous a spoonful of the everyday spice could really be.
"It's like sucking in fire into your lungs. It's really, really bad," Parker said. "After a minute, you're gasping for air, and it just sucks it down your throat, and after that it's really bad. You start gagging. It really feels like your lungs are about to collapse. It feels like the oxygen is being taken right out of your body."
Dr. Harold Laski, of Southside Medical Center, says the spice creates an immediate gag reflex that could lead to serious health complications.
"It has caused, in some cases, hospitalizations with collapse of the lung," he said. "In time, there's going to be fatalities if it continues at the rate that it is."
The troubling trend appears to be promoted in a Groupon Guide message attached to an ad for a local salon.
It reads: "Do you have what it takes to join the ranks of these cinnamon-challenge champions?"
"I know YouTube does it. OK, that's silly and I shouldn't do it," Parker said. "But, hey, I've got a public company saying, 'Go ahead, give it a shot. Do you have what it takes?' You don't know who's going to get hurt out of this."
"They shouldn't be doing something like that," Parker added.
While the manager at the Southside salon wouldn't comment, she said she is looking into the ad.
Meantime, Parker wants others to learn from his mistake.
"Don't do it. It's not worth it. It's not worth your health," he said.