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OLR Research Report


July 8, 2009

 

2009-R-0251

STATE LAWS ON INHALANT USE

By: Saul Spigel, Chief Analyst

You asked to compare Connecticut's law governing the use of inhalants with those in other states.

SUMMARY

Connecticut law bans the unauthorized manufacture or compounding, possession, control, sale, delivery, or administration of any “restricted substance.” It defines restricted substances as amyl nitrite and specific volatile substances if they are sold, compounded, possessed or controlled, or delivered or administered to another person for breathing, inhaling, sniffing, or drinking to induce a stimulant, depressant, or hallucinogenic effect. Violators can be fined up to $100.

Twenty-four states specifically ban the use, possession, or sale or other distribution of inhalants. Most define inhalants as products like glue and solvents that can cause mind-altering effects; many specify chemical compounds that, when present in a product, make it an inhalant. Nearly all the states apply the prohibition to anyone who uses or delivers a banned product; a few apply it only to minors. In over half the states, the person inhaling the substance must intend to become intoxicated or distort his or her senses; many also require a person distributing an inhalant to know that it would be abused. In nearly all states, violations are misdemeanors. Penalties range from $25 fines to $10,000 fines and from 30 days or less in jail to up to six years in prison.

INHALANTS—BACKGROUND

Inhalants are breathable chemical vapors or gases that produce mind-altering effects when inhaled. They include a broad range of common products such as model airplane glue, octane booster, spot remover, and vegetable cooking spray (volatile solvents); hair spray, air freshener, and fabric protector (aerosols); nitrous oxide, butane, and helium (gases); and amyl, butyl, and isobutyl nitrites (nitrites). Side effects associated with inhalant use include dizziness, hallucinations, apathy, and impaired judgment. Continued use can result in weight loss, muscle weakness, disorientation, and depression, while chronic abuse may cause serious and sometimes irreversible heart, liver, kidney, lung, or brain damage.

CONNECTICUT INHALANT LAW

Connecticut law bans the unauthorized manufacture, compounding, possession, control, sale, delivery, or administration of any “restricted substance.” It defines restricted substances to include amyl nitrite and specific volatile substances to the extent they are sold, prescribed, dispensed, compounded, possessed or controlled, or delivered or administered to another person for breathing, inhaling, sniffing, or drinking to induce a stimulant, depressant, or hallucinogenic effect. Vendors of volatile substances break the law only if they knew or should have known that the substance was to be used for illicit purposes.

The restricted substances listed in statute are: acetone; benzene; butyl alcohol; butyl nitrate and its salts, isomers, esters, ethers or their salts; cyclohexanone; dichlorodifluoromethane; ether; ethyl acetate; formaldehyde; hexane; isopropanol; methanol; methyl cellosolve acetate; methyl ethyl ketone; methyl isobutyl ketone; nitrous oxide; pentachlorophenol; toluene; toluol; trichloroethane; trichloroethylene; 1,4 butanediol. The consumer protection commissioner can designate more restricted substances by regulation (see Conn. Agency Regs., 21a-243-1 to -4).

There is no specific penalty for violating this law, consequently the penalty is a fine of up to $100 (the general penalty when none is expressly provided, CGS 54-195). The law presumes that anyone found to have inhaled or to be under the influence of one of these substances is psychologically dependent on them and, it provides that, to the extent possible, individuals who breathe, inhale, sniff, or drink these substances are to be afforded medical treatment rather than criminal sanctions (CGS 21a-240(49), -245, -254, -279(f), -281).

OTHER STATES' INHALANT LAWS

Criminal Laws

Twenty-four states specifically ban the use, possession, or sale or other distribution of inhalants, according to a 2007 compilation of laws from the National Conference of State Legislatures, which we updated. Table 1 (below) summarizes these laws.

Most states broadly define inhalants as types of products (e.g., glue and aerosols) that can produce mind-altering effects, and many, like Connecticut, specify the chemical compounds whose presence makes a product an inhalant. Five states specifically target nitrous oxide in addition to other substances.

In nearly all the states, the prohibitions apply to anyone who uses or delivers a banned product. But Arizona's, Idaho's, and Illinois's laws apply only to minors. Over half the states require the person to use the substance with the intention of becoming intoxicated, euphoric, elated, or stupefied or distorting his or her senses. Many states also require someone distributing an inhalant to know that it would be abused. Most states make exceptions for people using anesthesia for medical or dental purposes or using substances under a healthcare practitioner's direction. And some states exempt glue sold in hobby kits.

In most states, violations of these laws are misdemeanors. Penalties range from $25 fines to $10,000 fines and from 30 days or less in jail to up to six years in prison.

A limited electronic search of statutes also found that several states—Alaska, Georgia, Kentucky, New Jersey, Utah, and Vermont—specifically include inhalants in their laws governing driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol. We can provide more information on this topic at your request.

Education

Oregon and California require state-level inhalant education efforts. Oregon requires its Human Services Department to develop education resources for: (1) parents, focusing on inhalant abuse by minors and the risks of inhalant use and (2) for merchants, encouraging them to post signs informing the public that inhalant use is illegal and potentially deadly. California includes inhalants in its drug abuse prevention and suppression program. This program awards funds to local law enforcement agencies and schools that jointly develop programs to address drug trafficking in and around school campuses. Programs can include drug traffic interventions, school- and classroom-oriented programs designed to increase awareness of drugs' effects, and family-oriented prevention programs.

STATE INHALANT LAWS

Table 1: State Inhalant Laws

State

Prohibited Substances

Prohibited Acts

Intended to:

Does not Apply to:

Penalties

Arizona

● Vapor-releasing substance containing a toxic substance

● Nitrous oxide (NO)

● Breathe, inhale, drink

● Sell, transfer, offer to sell to someone < 18

● < 18 & using false ID to obtain NO

● <18 & soliciting someone to sell NO

Not specified

Sales made in the normal course of business by licensed commercial establishments and their employees that regularly sell these products

● Breathe, inhale, drink, sell, offer to sell vapor-releasing substance or NO: 6 months to 2.5 years in prison

● Using false ID to obtain NO: 6 months in prison

● <18 & soliciting someone to sell NO: 30 days in prison

California

● Material containing toluene

● Substances that have toxic qualities similar to toluene as determined by Health Services Dept.

● Glue, cement, paint, paint thinner, solvents

● Possess or knowingly be under influence

● Sell, dispense, distribute to someone <18

Cause intoxication, stupefaction, elation, euphoria, dizziness; change, distort, disturb auditory, visual, mental process

Sale of:

● gasoline or motor vehicle fuel to someone <18

● glue certified by Health Services Dept.

● glue that is part of model or hobby kit

● Possession & being under influence: fine up to $1,000, up to six months in county jail, or both

● Sale <18: Fine between $1,000 and $2,500 or between 6 months and 1 year in prison

Colorado

Fumes of products containing specified chemical compounds

Knowingly:

● smell or inhale

● possess, sell, or use

● aid anyone to use

Cause euphoria, excitement, stupefaction, or dulled senses

Inhaling anesthesia or other substances for medical or dental purposes

● Fine up to $500, up to 6 months in prison, or both

● No prison term for 1st offense

Florida

● Compounds, liquids, or chemicals containing specified chemical compounds

● NO

● Inhale, ingest, possess

● Possess, buy, sell with intent to aid anyone to inhale

● sell, purchase, transfer, or possess > 16 grams of NO

Induce intoxication or disturb auditory, visual, or mental processes

Possession of substances used in medical treatment

● Inhale, possess, or aid inhaling of specified substances: up to 60 days in prison

● sell, purchase, transfer, or possess NO: up to 5 years in prison

Georgia

Glue, solvent, or other substance containing specified chemical compounds

● Intentionally inhale

● Possess, sell, transfer, receive to aid someone to inhale

● Sell or transfer to minor

● Minor possess or buy

Cause euphoria, excitement, stupefaction, or dulled senses

● Inhaling anesthesia for medical or dental purposes

● Minor who has parental permission to purchase

Fine up to $1,000, 1 year in jail, or both

Hawaii

Substance that includes volatile organic solvents or capable of producing intoxication when inhaled

Use

Not specified

No exceptions specified

Fine up to $100, up to 3 months in prison, or both

Idaho

Aerosol spray product or other inhalant (glue, cement, or other substance containing specified chemical compounds)

Possess or use by minor

Induce intoxication, stupefaction, depression, giddiness, paralysis, irrational behavior; change, distort, disturb auditory, visual, mental process

Use that follows a doctor's or manufacturer's instructions

Fine up to $300, 30 days in juvenile detention, or both

Illinois

Compound, liquid, chemical containing specified chemical compounds

● Use

● Sell or deliver to anyone <17 knowing product will be abused

Induce intoxication, stupefaction, depression, giddiness, paralysis, irrational behavior; change, distort, disturb auditory, visual, mental process

Sale to <17 year old with written parental permission

Up to 30 days in prison

Table 1: -Continued-

State

Prohibited Substances

Prohibited Acts

Intended to:

Does not Apply to:

Penalties

Kentucky

Glue, cement, paint, or other substance containing a solvent or chemical that releases toxic vapors

● Intentionally smell or inhale fumes

● Intentionally sell, deliver, or give

Cause intoxication, inebriation, stupefaction, dulling of brain or nervous system; distort auditory, visual, mental processes

No exceptions specified

● Use: Up to 90 days in prison or placement in a treatment facility for up to 90 days

● Sale: 1 to 5 years in prison

Louisiana

Model glue, toxic vapors

● Intentionally smell or inhale

● Sell or transfer glue to a minor

Cause intoxication, elation, euphoria, dizziness, irrational behavior, dulling of senses; change or distort audio, visual, mental processes

Inhaling anesthesia for medical or dental purposes

$25 to $100 fine, up to 90 days in prison, or both

Maryland

Drugs, substance, or chemical that contains any specified chemical compound

● Deliberately smell or inhale

● Distribute or possess with intent to distribute with intent to induce unlawful inhaling or knowledge that substance will be inhaled

● Instruct someone in how to inhale

● Distribute a butane canister to a minor

Cause intoxication, excitement, exhilaration, stupefaction, or dulling of the brain or nervous system

No exceptions specified

● Use: Fine up to $500, six month in prison, or both

● Distribution, Instruction: Fine up to $1,000, up to 18 months in prison, or both

Massachusetts

Any substance having the property of releasing toxic vapors

● Intentionally smell or inhale

● Possess, buy, or sell to aid someone to violate law

● Sell glue to minor

Cause intoxication, excitement, exhilaration, stupefaction, or dulling of the brain or nervous system

Inhaling anesthesia for medical or dental purposes

Use, sale, possession with intent to sell: Fine up to $200, up to 6 month in prison, or both

Table 1: -Continued-

State

Prohibited Substances

Prohibited Acts

Intended to:

Does not Apply to:

Penalties

Minnesota

● Glue, cement, or aerosol spray contain specified chemical compounds

● Butane lighters

● Similar substances health commissioner declares to be toxic to central nervous system and subject to abuse

● Use

● Intentionally aid someone to use

Induce intoxication, excitement, or stupefaction of central nervous system

Use under a doctor's supervision

Fine up to $1,000, 90 days in prison, or both

New Hampshire

Any substance that can release toxic vapors

Purposely smell or inhale fumes

Cause intoxication, euphoria, excitement, stupefaction, or dulled sensation of central nervous system

Inhaling anesthesia for medical or dental purposes

Fine up to $1,000 or conditional discharge for up to 1 year

New York

● Glue, cement, or compound containing specified chemical compounds

● NO

● Intentionally inhale fumes

● Use NO

● Possess for purpose of using

● Sell or offer to sell, knowing product will be used to violate law

Cause intoxication, inebriation, excitement, stupefaction or dulling of brain or nervous system

● Inhaling anesthesia for medical or dental purposes

● Sales for industrial use

● Use of NO in industrial, medical, or dental applications

● Use or possession: Fine up to $50, up to 5 days in jail, or both

● Use of NO: Fine of between $500 and $1,000, up to 1 year in prison, or both

● Sale: Fine of between $500 and $1,000, up to 1 year in prison, or both

Table 1: -Continued-

State

Prohibited Substances

Prohibited Acts

Intended to:

Does not Apply to:

Penalties

North Carolina

Compound, liquid, or chemical containing specified chemical compounds

● Knowingly inhale

● Possess

● Sell, offer to sell, possess with intent to sell, deliver

Induce intoxication

Use at direction of medical provider

● Use or possession: for 1st offense, probation for up to 1 year on condition of participation in drug education program; subsequent offense,

● Sale: Up to 6 months in prison

Ohio

Any compound or substance whose fumes or vapor when inhaled can induce intoxication, excitement, giddiness, irrational behavior, depression, stupefaction, paralysis, unconsciousness, asphyxiation, or other harmful physiological effects, including: specified product types, aerosols, and anesthesia

● Obtain, possess, or use

● Knowingly dispense or distribute to minor

● Knowingly dispense or distribute nitrous oxide to person < 21

● Sell a device that permits someone to inhale nitrous oxide

Induce intoxication or similar physiological effects

● Dispensing NO for medical, dental, or clinical purposes

● Products used in making, transporting, or constructing other products for sale

● Products used in mining, refining, or processing natural deposits

● Obtain, possess, or use: (1) fine up to $1,000, up to 180 days in prison or community facility, or both for 1st conviction; (2) fine up $2,500, 6 to 12 months in prison, or both for subsequent conviction: (3) suspend driver's license for 6 months to 5 years

● Sell nitrous oxide: (1) fine up $2,500, 6 to 12 months in prison, or both for 1st conviction; (2) fine up to $5,000, 6 to 18 months in prison, or both for subsequent conviction; (3) suspend driver's license for 6 months to 5 years for a subsequent conviction

Table 1: -Continued-

State

Prohibited Substances

Prohibited Acts

Intended to:

Does not Apply to:

Penalties

Oregon

Glue, cement or other substance that can cause intoxication and that contains one or more specified chemical compounds

Use or possess either for self or to induce someone else to use

Induce intoxication

Substance prescribed by a health care practitioner or used under practitioner supervision

● Fine up to $300 for 1st violation; Juvenile Court can send minors for treatment and counseling

● Fine up to $2,500, up to 6 months in prison, or both for subsequent offense; Juvenile court must send minors for treatment and counseling

● Driver's license suspension for driving under influence of inhalant

So. Dakota

Any substance other than alcoholic beverage

Inhale or ingest

Become intoxicated

Substances prescribed by healthcare practitioner

Fine up to $2,000, up to 1 year in prison, or both

Tennessee

Glue, paint, gasoline, aerosol, or other substance containing a solvent that releases toxic vapors; statute specifies chemical compounds

● Intentionally smell or inhale

● Sell, offer, deliver, or give

Cause intoxication, inebriation, elation, dizziness, excitement, stupefaction, dizziness, dulling of brain; disturb or distort audio or visual processes

● Inhaling anesthesia for medical or dental purposes

● Sale of hobby and model kits containing glue

● Use of NO in commercial food and beverage distribution

● Use or possession: Fine up to $2,500, up to 1 year in prison, or both

● Sale or delivery: Fine up to $3,000, 1 to 6 years in prison, or both

Table 1: -Continued-

State

Prohibited Substances

Prohibited Acts

Intended to:

Does not Apply to:

Penalties

Texas

● Chemical, including aerosol paint, in a container labeled “vapor harmful” pursuant to federal law and capable of causing intoxication or hallucination, affecting central nervous system, or distorting eyesight, thinking, or coordination

● NO

● Inhale, ingest, possess

● Knowingly delivers to person < 18

● Knowingly uses or possess inhalant paraphernalia

● Knowingly manufactures, sells, or delivers inhalant paraphernalia, or possesses it with intent to sell or deliver

Induce intoxication, hallucination, or elation; affect central nervous system, or distort eyesight, thinking, or coordination

Pesticides; food, drug, or cosmetic subject to federal law; alcoholic beverages

● Use: Fine up to $2,000, up to 180 days in prison, or both

● Delivery to <18: Fine up to $10,000, between 6 months and 2 years in prison, or both

● Paraphernalia use: Fine up to $2,000, up to 180 days in prison, or both

● Paraphernalia manufacture or delivery: Fine up to $4,000, up to 1 year in prison, or both

Utah

● Glue, cement, or other substance containing specified chemical compounds and capable of causing intoxification, elation, euphoria, dizziness, stupefaction, dulling of senses

● NO

● Possess with intent to inhale

● Knowingly and intentionally under the influence

● Offer, sell, or provide

Cause intoxification, elation, euphoria, dizziness, stupefaction, dulling of senses or distort auditory, visual, mental processes

● Prescribed use, distribution, or sale of substances for medical or dental purposes

● Administration of NO for medical, surgical, or dental care by person with a license that authorizes NO administration

● Possessing, being under influence, or delivering glue, etc: Fine up to $1,000, up to 6 months in prison, or both

● Possessing, being under influence, or delivering nitrous oxide: Fine up to $2,500, up to 1 year in prison, or both

Table 1: -Continued-

State

Prohibited Substances

Prohibited Acts

Intended to:

Does not Apply to:

Penalties

Vermont

● Glue or adhesive containing specified chemical compounds

● Inhalants containing specified chemical compounds

● Intentionally smell or inhale

● Possess with intent to use

Cause intoxication, inebriation, excitement, stupefaction, or dulling of the brain or nervous system

Inhaling anesthesia for medical or dental purposes

Fine up to $25

Virginia

Drugs or noxious chemical substances, including fingernail polish and glue, containing specified chemical compounds

● Smell or inhale

● Deliberately cause or induce someone to smell or inhale

Become intoxicated, inebriated, excited, or stupefied or dull the brain or nervous system

Use under doctor's direction

● Use: Fine up to $2,500, up to 1 year in jail, or both

● Induce use: Fine up to $1,000, up to 6 months in jail, or both

Wisconsin

● Hazardous substances, including household products, that can cause illness or injury to someone who abuses them

● NO

● Intentionally abuse

● Possess with intent to abuse

● Distribute or possess with intent to distribute, knowing substance or nitrous oxide will be abused

● Distribute nitrous oxide to someone <21 or possess with intent to distribute

Not specified

● Retail sales to food service establishments

● Retail sale to or purchase by hospitals, clinics, and other health care organizations that use NO

● Use or possess: Fine up to $10,000, up to 9 months in prison, or both

● Distribute NO: Fine up to $10,000, up to 6 years in prison, or both

● Distribute hazardous substance: Fine up to $10,000, up to 3.5 years in prison, or both

Source: NCSL, Youth Use of Inhalants and Aerosols—State Laws, 2007

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