‘Treat deodorant cans like cigarettes’

A GOLD Coast City councillor wants retail giants such as Coles and Woolworths to treat aerosol cans like cigarettes to stop kids as young as 11 bingeing on chemicals.

The number of youths being treated in the city's emergency departments for "chroming" has doubled in two years, according to new Gold Coast Health figures.

Police say the chemical abuse is particularly rampant among children between the ages of 11 and 13.

Chroming involves inhaling chemicals from aerosols to give a short but intense high. It has become popular because the cans are cheap and easily accessible.

Cr Hermann Vorster. Picture: Glenn Hampson
Cr Hermann Vorster. Picture: Glenn Hampson

Robina councillor Hermann Vorster has written to the Australian Retailers Association asking for retail heavyweights to record the thefts of household items such as deodorant and aerosol cans to stop "multiple deaths and severe injury" among vulnerable kids.

At present, there is no national data base. However, police and medical experts say chroming, while not illegal, has become an Australian-wide epidemic and is responsible for flow-on problems such as crime and long-term health issues.

"This is an escalating problem which is gripping communities across the Gold Coast," Cr Vorster said.

"It is clear our biggest retailers are not doing enough to disrupt the supply of potentially lethal drugs to minors.

Some aerosol cans dump in the Southport Broadwater Parklands.
Some aerosol cans dump in the Southport Broadwater Parklands.

"Aerosol cans have turned into a gateway drug which can lead young kids to experience harder substances.

"Shops which are found to have their stocks stolen at a higher rate should consider having the cans behind the counter in the same way that cigarettes are now sold."

Cr Vorster called for a new policy which would require retailers to report the theft of antiperspirant cans containing butane to police weekly.

The problem has got so bad that some business owners in Southport have stopped reporting the theft of aerosol cans to police because it is happening so often.

Minister Steven Miles (AAP Image/Jono Searle)
Minister Steven Miles (AAP Image/Jono Searle)

It also prompted Health Minister Steven Miles to last month call for a roundtable of retail industry officials and doctors to discuss the issue.

He told State Parliament the majority of people admitted to hospital over chroming use were aged between 10 and 19 years.

Gold Coast Health yesterday said the number of people treated for "inhalant" abuse had jumped from 27 in 2017 to 53 so far this year.

Senior Sergeant Stewart Reid, officer in charge of Coomera Police Station, yesterday told the Bulletin there had been a "disturbing trend" of children between ages 11 and 13 being found chroming.

"It is a trend which has been occurring across the nation for about three years and we have been putting in a lot of work in this space to get the message out there," he said.

"If you go around the Coast's transport hubs at night you will find kids with aerosol cans who may not be using it for personal hygiene.

"There has been a disturbing trend of young kids, around 12 or 13 especially, who are found huffing with older teenagers who are generally 15 or 16.

"This is really risky behaviour and it causes all sorts of health problems."

In September, the Bulletin revealed Broadbeach residents were at "breaking point" over a youth crime wave which involved young people chroming and using drugs in Nikiforides Park.

Gold Coast Medical Association president and addiction specialist Professor Philip Morris yesterday said chroming was a serious issue and backed Cr Vorster's call for greater regulation.

"Kids can get addicted to these substances which can cause damage to the brain and lungs," he said.

"Having shops keep the cans in more supervised areas would be appropriate."