14 Sep 2012

63 'huffing' deaths since 2000

10:30 am on 14 September 2012

The Chief Coroner's review into deaths from butane gas inhalation has found that the practice known as 'huffing' has killed 63 people since 2000.

In his final report, Judge Neil MacLean said the practice known as huffing is a bigger problem than he first thought.

He wants government agencies to pick up on some of recommendations by coroners made in the past 12 years which include regulation, research and education campaigns.

However, Judge MacLean says making the products used for huffing illegal is unrealistic.

"Banning is not the answer; and banning is even more difficult here, because we're not talking about a small range of potential substances like alcohol, beer, spirits, whatever.

"We're actually talking about a whole range of stuff that can be found in any New Zealand household or store."

Judge Neil MacLean says huffing is predominately a male phenomenon and has claimed the lives of 49 men since 2000.

The chair of Child and Youth Mortality Review Committee, which is looking into the deaths of young New Zealanders, believes action will finally be taken to prevent further fatalities from huffing.

Nick Baker says there is a risk no action will be taken following the latest report, but that could change if an agency with the relevant experience steps forward to co-ordinate an inter-agency approach to the problem.