(June 7, 2010)

(June 7, 2010) Credit: John Dunn

Suffolk lawmakers are expected to vote Tuesday to ban the sale to minors of aerosol dusting products - designed to clean computer keyboards but increasingly used by kids to get high by inhaling or "huffing."

Sponsor Legis. Wayne Horsley (D-Babylon) said he has the votes for passage and said his proposed bill would protect mainly middle schoolers from an entry level drug in products dubbed "canned air." He said the compressed gas in the products can induce a short-term high by denying oxygen to the brain.

Horsley said the products contain harmful hydrocarbons that can be addictive and cause paralysis, brain damage and cardiac death - "sudden sniffing death."

"The reason we're going after the canned air is that they are legal, cheap and available and frankly they are the products most used by teens," said Horsley, adding that "canned air" gives some people "the false sense these products are clean and safe."

Horsley aides said inhalants restrictions have been put into effect in 24 states. Nassau has no similar legislative proposal pending.

Federal studies show that abuse of aerosol inhalants by teens has grown 158 percent from 1990-1999 to over 1 million and are the fourth most abused substance after alcohol, cigarettes and marijuana. The Justice Department's National Drug Intelligence Center says by eighth grade one in five youngsters has tried inhalants at least once.

Deborah Wright, government affairs manager for Falcon Safety Products, a New Jersey maker of dusters, said the firm puts strong warning labels on its products and does not allow those who sell their products to refer to them as "air" dusters.

"Our problem is not with the intent . . . - keeping kids safe - but it's too narrow because there are 1,500 to 3,000 products that can be abused and misused," she said.

"We're concerned that by banning one product," said Colleen Creighton, executive director of Alliance for Consumer Education an industry- sponsored group, "Parents will think they are safe and let their guard down."

Co-sponsor Legis. Kate Browning (WFP-Shirley) said she plans to add a dozen other chemicals used in huffing including propane, butane, benzene and even acetone used in nail polish.

Violators can be fined $500 for a first offense and $1,000 for a second. "We simply want to put these products behind the counter," Horsley said, "So those under 18 cannot buy them without an adult."

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