Habit on the increase in the
Far North among the young

Retailers in Caithness and Sutherland are being issued with guidance on the sale of
solvents following an increase in the number of solvent abuse cases being reported
among young people in the north.
The Highland Council's Trading Standards campaign follows concerns raised by NHS
Highland Youth Action Service and the Caithness and Sutherland Drug and Alcohol
forums to an issue of solvent misuse reported in the area.
It is an offence for a retailer to sell gas lighter refills to anyone under the
age of 18, petrol and spray paints to anyone under the age of 16, or to
recklessly supply substances to people of any age knowing that they are to be
used for the purpose of abuse.
Trading Standards Manager, Gordon Robb, said: "We want to highlight to retailers
the part they can play in helping to reduce the number of young people getting
their hands on solvents. Shop staff need to be aware when selling these types of
products that they might be bought for abuse. Many household products are
solvent-based, not just glues."
The guidance lists the types of products that are open to abuse and identifies
steps traders can take, including asking for proof of age, refusing sales to
anyone suspected of buying for abuse and training staff on tell-tale signs that
a customer may be an abuser of solvents. Obvious signs of an abuser include a
strong chemical smell off clothing, slurred speech and spots or sores around the
mouth. Frequent or bulk purchases of solvents or buying these items together
with plastic bags are also indicators.
Gordon Robb added: "We are working alongside our health partners in raising
awareness among retailers, young people and parents to try to reduce solvent
misuse and the associated anti-social behaviour and related crime, to protect
our young people and make the Highlands a safer and healthier place to live."
Steve James, Health Improvement Coordinator with the Youth Action Service for
NHS Highland and a member of the local Drugs and Alcohol Forums, said: "Solvent
abuse is a real and recurring problem in Caithness and Sutherland as well as the
rest of the country. Evidence shows that more young people die each year from
solvent misuse than all illegal substances combined. We have found that
educating young people is simply not enough and they can still get hold of
products that can endanger their young lives. There are a number of damaging
effects associated with abusing solvents, which will result in the gradual
decline of a young person's health, but the most significant effect is that it
can result in sudden death on first use."
The charity Re-Solv Scotland has provided display stickers to be sent out to
retailers with the guidance. Re-Solv Development Manager, Marina Clayton, said:
"This campaign is a perfect example of how partners can work together to do
everything possible to try to prevent deaths and harms from solvent misuse. The
average home contains around 30 products that can be abused, from aerosols to
the petrol in lawnmowers and cars. We must raise awareness of this legal but
lethal activity. There is little more tragic than a death caused by ignorance."
The Caithness and Sutherland Drug and Alcohol Forums are assisting with the
distribution of the retailer guidance and helping Trading Standards to find
young volunteers to allow officers to carry out test purchasing exercises to
ensure retailers are acting responsibly when selling solvents.
Retailers in Caithness and Sutherland will receive guidance packs this week.
Any retailers wishing further information can contact Trading Standards on 01463