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'A stepping stone': Community prepares for new law targeting whippets that's set to begin

whippet law going into effect.jpg
Posted at 7:18 PM, Jun 07, 2024

DETROIT (WXYZ) — It’s been years of work for Laura Chavez and the Whippet Wipeout Campaign to get to this moment of passing a new law that goes into effect Monday banning the sale of whippet crackers.

“Southwest Detroit, we get stuff done,” said Chavez, who's also president and CEO of the Southwest Detroit Business Association. “This is to prevent the paraphernalia that's used to pop the canister and inhale the nitrous oxide.”

LAURA CHAVEZ
Laura Chavez, who is part of the Whippet Wipeout Campaign and also president and CEO of the Southwest Detroit Business Association. (June 7, 2024)

7 News Detroit has been following their efforts for months, with a story by our own Kim Craig being played at a Senate hearing in Lansing last year, showing the group cleaning up the streets of Southwest Detroit of discarded whippets, canisters or nitrous oxide that are being inhaled for a quick high.

Watch Craig's report that played in Lansing below:

Southwest Detroit coalition working to stop abuse of dangerous inhalant 'whippets'

"They’re FDA regulated and there is a legal use for them, but not the way they’re being used and sold and marketed to young people because that’s not what they’re for," Chavez said. “It's a quick money grab and it's unfortunate because those retailers are really not thinking about the health and wellness of the community they’re benefiting from."

Chavez says they’re being sold in stores throughout the community. We found large ones on sale at multiple gas stations in Detroit and some surrounding suburbs.

“We've been tracking this for a number of years," said Dr. Varun Vohra,
academic director and clinical toxicologist for the Michigan Poison and Drug Information Center at Wayne State University School of Medicine. "There's been a considerable uptick in the last couple of years.”

Dr. Varun Vohra
Dr. Varun Vohra, academic director and clinical toxicologist for the Michigan Poison and Drug Information Center at Wayne State University School of Medicine. (June 7, 2024)

Vohra says its use has become increasingly popular among teens and young adults, with Michigan emergency room visits rising 132% from January of 2022 to November of 2023.

“We see a lot of patients coming in complaining of weakness, uncoordinated weakness in their upper and lower extremities,” Vohra said, adding that long term chronic use can also lead to brain damage.

VIDEO: Mission to wipe out use of dangerous inhalant gaining traction in Lansing

Mission to wipe out use of dangerous inhalant gaining traction in Lansing

However, this new law only targets crackers, the tool now deemed paraphernalia that is used to actually inhale the gas. So while the cans themselves will still legally be sold on store shelves, the community says their fight isn’t over.

“It's a really good start," Vohra said. "I think this is a stepping stone to really do more.”

“We're hoping that these retailers will be responsible and say you know, what? We’ll take these off the shelves,'" Chavez said. "That’s what we’re hoping will happen."

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