Concerns have been raised about teenagers in Alexandra huffing days after the release of a coroner’s report linked the practice to the 2019 death of a teenager in the town.
Last week coroner Meenal Duggal linked huffing butane to the drowning of 13-year-old Jorja Stewart at home.
Between 2000 and 2012, 63 people died as a result of intentionally inhaling butane›based substances, of whom 87% were under 24 years old, the youngest being 12.
On January 10, Alexandra woman Glenda Thompson came across 14 butane canisters on a couch in the trees while walking her dog near the Alexandra airport.
Mrs Thompson has walked in the area for a number of years and said one particular spot seemed to be a gathering place for young people.
She often found it littered with energy drink bottles and other rubbish.
However, the discovery of the canisters shocked her.
‘‘There is plenty of evidence of what [young people] are getting up to.
‘‘This is where they go to vape and drink high›energy drinks, both soft gateways to harder drugs to my mind.
‘‘Young people enjoy themselves but when I saw the butane cans on Tuesday I was seriously alarmed.
‘‘Surely butane huffing is dangerous to both mental and physical health at a whole different level.’’
She was concerned by the accessibility of the canisters and questioned why retailers would sell them to young people, especially in larger quantities.
‘‘I don’t know who gives or sells butane canister to children.
‘‘Wouldn’t an adult be concerned when a young person wants to buy a four-pack of butane canisters?
‘‘Wouldn’t they be asking what they wanted it for?
‘‘Am I naive to think retailers have an ethical code?’’
Youth had been known to hang out at the airport for years and the issue of huffing was one that ‘‘comes and goes’’, Puna Rangatahi chairman and Vincent Community Board deputy chairman Jayden Cromb said.
‘‘I think that for a lot of young people it’s an easy way to get the high . . .It’s easily accessible . . .[and] it’s easier to hide.
‘‘If they’re drunk, have been drinking or smoking, a parent is going to notice that.’’
Young people thought they were ‘‘invincible’’, but the health risks associated with huffing were high.
‘‘When you are young you never think about these things — the fact you could die from heart failure, or have long-term effects of it getting into your lungs and heart.
‘‘You might get a 40-second high from it but there’s also long-term damage.’’
He encouraged parents to talk to their children about the dangers of huffing, and to approach community and social services if they needed support.
‘‘It’s one of those things [where] we all know people doing it but we don’t talk about it often enough.’’
Hato Hone St John general manager for clinical improvement Kris Gagliardi said key indicators to look out for if a person had been exposed to a substance such as butane included drowsiness, slurred speech, loss of consciousness, memory loss and seizures.
‘‘If you or someone else has inhaled butane or any other poisonous substance, call 111 for an ambulance as soon as possible.’’