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Driver crashes after 'huffing' air duster, police say


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SYRACUSE -- A man is lucky to be alive after passing out and rolling his vehicle several times. Syracuse Police say huffing an air duster is what caused the man to pass out.

You can pick one up at almost any store. Police say it's a growing problem in their city.

Air dusters are typically used for cleaning your keyboard or your car. But Sunday, 18-year-old Spencer Nicolas used it to get high while driving, according to police.

What is ... huffing?
"Huffing" is defined by inhalant.org as inhaling fumes or vapors of a substance in one of the following ways:
  • A product is held directly to the mouth and the contents are inhaled.
  • A piece of cloth is placed over the product to act as a filter and the contents are inhaled through the cloth.
  • A chemical-soaked rag is held to the face or stuffed in the mouth and the substance is inhaled.

Stats for 2000 to 2009:
  • Emergency visits for gaseous fumes or vapors: 197
  • Average per year: 20
  • Hospitalizations: 34
  • Unintentional deaths: 7Source: inhalant.org and Utah Department of Health.

Nicholas was driving with another teen at about 3300 W. on 700 South Sunday when he passed out as a result of huffing the duster. The other teen grabbed the wheel.

"He was actually trying to control the car, but the car was going so fast they lost control and started rolling two or three times," said Sgt. Heath Rogers.

Syracuse Police say the huffing incident is their second one this year. Two weeks ago, a woman stole air-duster cans from a Syracuse Walmart and passed out in the parking lot.

"Officers were dispatched over there and she had several air dust cans that she had been huffing off," Sgt. Rogers said.

According the Department of Justice, the abuse of inhalants may be more prevalent among the adult population than among adolescents in the United States; adults currently make up more than half of those who seek treatment. Last year, Syracuse police also responded to a crash where an adult was huffing.

"It's very dangerous. Whether you're driving or not, it makes you pass out and lose all your senses," Sgt. Rogers said.

Nicholas was transported to McKay Dee Hospital but has since been released. He is now being charged with a DUI, possession of a psychotoxic chemical, failure to wear a seatbelt, and failure to stop at a stop sign.

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Shara Park

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