Young boys in UAE have reportedly moved on from marijuana and cigarettes and developed a new and weird source of addiction.
According to a Gulf News report, teenagers and children as young as 10 are smoking crushed ants to get high.
The dangerous habit has attracted many youngsters in the UAE and Sharjah, who crush the local Samsun black ants (Pachycondyla sennaarensis) and roll them in tobacco or spread them over cigarettes before smoking them.
The fumes of the ants produce a result similar to that of marijuana with visual and auditory hallucinations. The addiction, however, has been tagged as far more injurious to health by many experts.
"Samsun ants contain highly concentrated formic acid which is used by the insect to ward off predators and kill prey. When heated the formic acid produces toxic gases. They are not addictive but inhaling them can cause pulmonary fibrosis and renal failure besides other conditions including irreversible nervous system damage," a Dubai-based pulmonologist warned.
The country's Tobacco Control committee admitted to being aware of the ant smoking fad among Arab teens, although they are yet to estimate the popularity of the habit.
"We have heard about it. For some teens, the acid in the poison glands of ants smells like vinegar and they inhale its pungent fumes to get a kick. It's very dangerous as it can cause lung and other diseases," Dr Al Maidoor told Gulf News.
The report adds that the habit is going viral across Arab streets with local people reporting spotting groups of teenagers searching for Samsun ants.
"Until last year there would be just two of three boys, but now there are several groups," a local Sharjah resident told the website.