New law keeps gas canisters from kids 1

State Sen. Joe Addabbo Jr seriously doubts these empty canisters he found on Cross Bay Boulevard were used by a baker or a cook to improve the quality of a batch of homemade whipped cream.

When a constituent called state Sen. Joe Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach) about discarded drug paraphernalia littering a road near her home, he decided to check it out for himself.

“I went down to a street off of Cross Bay Boulevard in Ozone Park and I saw these canisters,” he said.

The canisters were discarded containers of nitrous oxide gas which, in the small metal tubes like those seen by the senator, are typically used by bakers and cooks to prepare fresh whipped cream.

The ones in the street had been used as whip-its, in which people discharge the gas and inhale it to get a temporary high.

“It wasn’t drug paraphernalia, not in the usual sense. But they were being used as a drug,” Addabbo said.

The incident moved Addabbo and state Rep. Stacey Pheffer Amato (D-Rockaway Beach) to introduce companion bills in their respective chambers outlawing the sale of the canisters to anyone under the age of 21. Addabbo was informed at the end of October that while Gov. Hochul did not sign the bill, it became law after she declined to veto it.

Addabbo on Tuesday told the Chronicle that the canisters can be purchased in cooking or restaurant supply businesses, where they are traditionally the color of the bare metal cylinder; but they also can be purchased in small grocery stores and bodegas.

“And 16- and 14-year-olds know where to get them,” Addabbo said. “A few days after I was informed by the Governor’s Office that it had become law, I began finding hundreds of these canisters on 156th Avenue and Cross Bay Boulevard. A lot of them were green with fancy lettering. That tells me they are being marketed to children. No baker or cook is going to use those neon green canisters. They say ‘Whip-it’ on the side! That’s definitely targeting younger kids.”

He also said that since the canisters are legally available for home use, children can wrongfully assume they are safe.

Nitrous oxide, or N2O in scientific nomenclature, is used medically as an anesthetic in places like dentists’ offices, and is often referred to as laughing gas. Long-term effects of abuse can include damage to the brain and internal organs, according to the website of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

The agency says inhalants are often among the first drugs that young children use; and that one in five children report having used inhalants by eighth grade.

“Our bill will greatly improve the quality of life throughout our state by removing the unused whipped cream canisters from our streets, and prevent their dangerous misuse — especially among our youth,” Pheffer Amato said in a press release issued by Addabbo’s office on Oct. 29.

Addabbo added that what he particularly loved about the outcome is that the matter began with a constituent phone call.

“It originated as a constituent complaint and became state law,” he said. “That’s a perfect picture of how state government is meant to work when it works right.”

Addabbo said his constituents and the state also can chalk up wins with two pieces of legislation Hochul did sign in recent weeks.

The first is a bill that adds siblings to the list of relatives who can receive paid time off to care for a sick family member, which he sponsored. The second penalizes not only drivers who alter their car and motorcycle exhaust systems to make excessive noise but the mechanics who do the work and state inspection stations that ignore the modifications when passing motor vehicles, of which he was an eager co-sponsor.

“When we passed paid family leave, which I was an advocate for, we included parents, grandparents, stepfathers — we included all these individuals,” Addabbo said. “We left out siblings.”

Those taking paid leave can receive up to two-thirds of their salaries from a state kitty funded by payroll deductions. Their jobs are preserved, and their employers can either hold on to the person’s salary or use it to hire a temporary replacement.

“This is friendly to small businesses as well,” he said.

Addabbo said under the muffler law, a station that passes altered exhaust systems three times can lose its state license to conduct vehicle inspections.

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