Legislation to Ban Sale of Nitrous Oxide - 'Whippits' - Unanimously Passes First Committee

Senator Jim Nielsen's Measure - SB 193 - Will Help Save Young Lives
Tuesday, March 26, 2019

The Senate Public Safety Committee unanimously passed Senate Bill 193, a measure to ban smoke shops from selling “whippits.”

“Nitrous oxide is a legal chemical for legitimate use but when abused, it is extremely lethal,” said Senator Jim Nielsen (R-Tehama), who authored the measure. “Young people buy and inhale this gas to get ‘high’ because they mistakenly believe it is a ‘safe’ substance.”

Senator Nielsen added, “Let’s try to eliminate the opportunities that are so accessible to this killer substance.”

Specifically, Senate Bill 193, if passed and signed into law, would prohibit smoke and tobacco shops from selling nitrous oxide.

Lawmakers heard heartbreaking stories including a mother’s grief over the brain damage and struggles of her son and a young man’s fight to recover from spinal cord degeneration when he was confined to a wheelchair. Both tragedies were due to nitrous oxide abuse.

Nitrous oxide use is difficult to detect because it does not stay in a user’s bloodstream for long.

Barbara Lodge, a mother of a son who was addicted said, “Although my son has committed to a life of sobriety, the reality is that any day or night, he can walk into any smoke/tobacco shop and be tempted to buy everything he needs to resume using this deadly drug.”

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, recreational use of nitrous oxide can lead to “death from lack of oxygen to the brain, altered perception and motor coordination, loss of sensation, limb spasms, blackouts caused by blood pressure changes, and depression of heart muscles functioning.”

Following his son’s confinement to a wheelchair, Patrick O’Brien asked Senator Nielsen to introduce this measure to help prevent other families from the anguish he and his family endured. 

Mr. O’Brien said, “My 19-year-old son was able to walk into a smoke shop to easily, legally and cheaply purchase a large quantity of a nitrous oxide. In my opinion, there isn’t a viable reason to sell this substance in a smoke shop. My concern about whippets and the damage it causes to the central nervous system led me to reach out to Senator Nielsen and share my story.”

Senate Bill 193 will now move onto the Senate Committee on Business, Professions and Economic Development for its consideration on April 8.