Inverness retailers urged to be vigilant for signs of sales for solvent abuse.

Jim Ferguson ICSP chairman said: “We are asking retailers to seriously question any sales of Butane Gas Lighter Fuel, especially where individuals frequently attempt to buy single cans or attempt to purchase multiple cans at one time. Solvent abuse can involve many different product types, but reports have been received by the partnership’s members of a very worrying level of abuse, using what appears to be large numbers of gas lighter refills, which must surely raise the suspicions of shopkeepers as to their intended purpose.”

The health impact associated with the abuse of these products - which can often involve vulnerable adults as well as young people – can include:

Dr Margaret Somerville Chair of the Highland Alcohol and Drugs Partnership said: “Solvent abuse isn’t a thing of the past. Butane is the most commonly misused substance and can be lethal. Death can occur on the first or hundredth episode. There is no way to predict who or when. We urge users not to put their life at risk and to contact the NHS Highland Harm Reduction Service for help and advice.”

Recklessly supplying or selling solvents or volatile substances to any person, knowing that these substances will be abused has been held to constitute criminal conduct. The law also makes it an offence to supply gas lighter refills to young people under the age of 18 years.

Chief Inspector Graeme Murdoch, Inverness Area Commander and Vice Chair of ICSP said: "There is legislation in place to control the sale of volatile substances such as butane to young people. However, the information available to the Partnership suggests that many if not the majority of abusers in Inverness are adults over the age of 18."

"The purpose of this campaign is to highlight the risks of volatile substance abuse to retailers in particular and make every effort to promote responsible sales practices. Any shopkeeper who sells butane to any person in the knowledge or reasonable belief that the person intends to abuse the substance may be committing the common law crime of culpable and reckless conduct. In basic terms, it is not about how many cans are purchased but the reason why they are being purchased. However it should be obvious that very regular purchases or purchases of multiple cans should immediately be questioned.”

Chief Inspector Murdoch added: "Officers have been working closely with Trading Standards in particular, making joint visits to a number of retailers across the city.
These visits are to raise awareness of the issue, to reinforce the message in terms of responsible sales and to ensure that retailers are fully aware of the relevant law.”

Gordon Robb, Highland Council’s Trading Standards Manager said: “Enforcing the regulations prohibiting the sale of these products to under 18’s can only be part of the answer and we are currently working with the police to tackle any retailer who is thought could be acting irresponsibly. The test purchasing of gas lighter refills along with other age restricted products forms part of our operational programme and the invaluable intelligence that has been generated as a result of the work of the ICSP will influence future work in this area.”

Being convicted of either of the above can carry a significant penalty, including imprisonment and could also result in the fitness to hold a licence, (e.g. an off sales alcohol licence) of any person involved in such illegal activity being raised by the Police and Highland Trading Standards with The Highland Council’s Licensing Committee.

Anyone who would like further information or advice on dealing with solvent abuse can contact: Harm Reduction on tel: 01463 717594 or the Highland Alcohol and Drugs Partnership on tel: 01463 704608 or visit the website:

3 Sep 2013