Charleston City Council considers huffing ordinance

(John Gaddy/WCIV)

By Stacy

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- Inhaling hydrocarbons is called huffing, and it gets people who inhale them high.

James Thomas, who has worked at Piggly Wiggly for 24 years, said he's even seen people do it in the store.

"It is shocking that anyone is even going to huff anything in the first place. It's dangerous. It can kill you," Thomas said.

That's why the city wanted to make sure it was illegal.

City prosecutor Mark Boudon said there is a local law on record, but the city{}needed to change the language of it{}to make huffing a crime. It addressed the ordinance alteration in its meeting Tuesday night.

It may be commonly called whip-its, or{}something else that seem like innocent childhood curiosity. But, doctors said it can have serious effects.

"You can get sudden cardiac death," said Dr. Keith Borg, who works in MUSC's pediatric emergency services. "The heart can stop from toxicity. You can displace all the oxygen from the lung, so in essence suffocation. And they can cause long-term harm and lots of damage to different parts of the body, including the brain."

Part of what makes huffing popular is its accessibility. Someone can walk down a{}grocery store aisle and{}see plenty of{}items that you can huff.

"They're cheap and you can get them anywhere," said MUSC's Dr. Joshua Smith, director of the outpatient clinic for the Center for Drugs and Alcohol Program.

Smith advised looking out{}for the signs, because they're easy to hide.

"If you find a lot of missing household items, or if you find a lot of empty canisters of things," he said.

Keeping the products out of the house can keep anyone from trying it, he said. And it may make parents breathe just a little easier.