Whippets come to represent ‘significant problem with nitrous oxide abuse’: Queens lawmaker

Photo: Mark Hallum/QNS

Queens State Senator Joe Addabbo is taking a stab at making a seemingly innocent party appliance available only to people 21 and over as teenagers increasingly reported using nitrous oxide to for its mind-altering effects rather than to fill party balloons.

Commonly known as “whippets,” Addabbo cited constituent complaints as the reason for the legislation, claiming canisters have begun to litter his district.

“[They] have also become a means of recreational drug use, particularly among younger New Yorkers, that can lead to debilitating health threats,” Addabbo said. “By limiting the purchase of these canisters to those over 21, and particularly to those who have a legitimate purpose for buying them, we can help protect our children from their intoxicating effects.”

According to a 2016 study by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 9.1 percent of Americans have tried inhalants with whippets available online or at stores to buyers of all ages.

Addabbo’s legislation would impose civil fines of up to $250 for retailers who sell to minors as a first offense and $500 per transgression after that.

Associated with a number of conditions afflicting the nervous system, brain and internal organs, huffing nitrous oxide is mainly associated with seizures, comas, severe frostbite and sudden sniffing death syndrome.

As the bill goes under review by the Committee on Consumer Protection, the Assembly version of the legislation is also going through the same process.

“These piles of used whippets in our communities are not only an eyesore, but may indicate a significant problem with nitrous oxide abuse,” Addabbo said.

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