25 Jul 2013

Coroner wants urgent action over huffing deaths

9:33 pm on 25 July 2013

A coroner who inquired into the deaths of three young people in Christchurch is calling on the Government to urgently to find a way to prevent people abusing volatile substances.

Sue Johnson heard evidence that 63 New Zealanders died between 2000 and 2012 from inhaling volatile gas in a practice known as huffing.

Recently, three people aged from 12 to 19 have died from heart attacks after huffing gas.

Ms Johnson has called on the Government and the Interagency Committee on Drugs to organise a high-level meeting urgently with stake holders such as retailers, manufacturers, councils and drug support agencies.

She says an organised approach needs to be taken to huffing and it needs to be prioritised.

The Child and Youth Mortality Review Committee says there needs to be an investigation into ways that huffing gas can be made less attractive to young people.

Chairperson Nick Baker says it's too easy for young people to buy butane gas.

"I find it very surprising that a young person can't purchase a can of spraypaint if they're under the age of 18 with legislation around the accessibility of spraypaint, but we have nothing similar in place for butane. That's something that needs to be seriously considered."

Dr Baker says there needs to be a national coalition in place to tackle the problem of huffing.