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Last Updated: Tuesday, 22 July, 2003, 06:43 GMT 07:43 UK
Alert over North solvents deaths
Solvent cans
Substance abuse can damage internal organs and kill
Three young people in the north-east of England die every year because they sniff a spray or glue.

The figures come from substance abuse charity Re-Solv, which says the North East has had the highest death rates over the past decade, along with Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Sniffing the butane gas in lighters can mean the heart beats irregularly, and can induce a heart attack.

It can kill someone, as well as making their liver's malfunction, shrink the brain and damage reproductive organs

Barry Oakley, from Re-Solv, said: "Most kids tend not to do this in their own homes, but in a public place.

"We get calls from the police saying they have found piles of cans, and could it be related to glue sniffing.

"The physical signs are that you can smell it on the breath - rather like alcohol, and that children will have a glazed expression as though they are drunk."

Death a week

It is illegal to sell substances like lighter fuel, to anyone under 18, but some of the region's councils do not check that shops are obeying the law.

However, Newcastle City Council says it regularly does, and that it has recently prosecuted three newsagents who sold lighter fluid to children.

Although it is illegal to sell the substances it is not then illegal to sniff them.

Across the UK, 63 people died from volatile substance abuse in 2001.

On average, one person dies in the UK every week due to this kind of abuse, far more than Ecstasy.

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