Many people who misuse volatile substances need community support to overcome this problem. The government and the police have a role to play in supporting people to overcome volatile substance misuse. Retailers also play an important role by restricting access to products that can be misused.
For retailers, stopping volatile substance misuse may reduce thefts of products from their store. It will also deter intoxicated people from entering the store, consequently improving staff safety and ensuring that customers do not feel threatened while in the store. The public may also consider retailers who restrict the sale of volatile substances to be socially responsible citizens.
Retailers also have legal responsibilities. Under the Summary Offences Act 2005, it is an offence, in certain circumstances, for a retailer to sell a volatile substance to someone.
The following products may be misused:
Under the Summary Offences Act 2005, it is an offence for a retailer or salesperson to knowingly sell a 'potentially harmful thing' to someone who the seller reasonably believes will inhale or ingest it or who intends to sell it to another person for inhalation or ingestion. A 'potentially harmful thing' can be lawfully possessed and may be harmful if ingested or inhaled. This includes glue, paint, solvents and methylated spirits. These requirements are in s23 of the Summary Offences Act 2005.
The maximum penalty is, for a first offence, 25 penalty units or three months imprisonment, or for a second or later offence, 50 penalty units or one year's imprisonment.
Yes. If a retailer refuses to sell a volatile substance on unreasonable grounds (eg. the reason for refusal based solely on a person's age) then the retailer may be in breach of discrimination legislation. Race must not be the reason (or part of the reason) for refusing to sell.
There are a number of indicators to look for to identify a potential volatile substance misuser:
Many products which are inhaled are stolen. Retailers can make it more difficult for people to steal products by:
Retailers should also educate themselves and their staff about how to recognise and communicate with people they believe may misuse volatile substances. All staff members should know what their legal rights and responsibilities are. Retailers can help educate staff by providing them with a fact sheet - a copy of which would also be useful in areas of reference, such as a procedures folder, under the counter or elsewhere at points-of-sale.
Retailers can choose to display a sign or poster , helping to inform members of the public - in addition to staff members - about volatile substance misuse and the associated legal responsibilities. Importantly, signage should be clear about the law, stating for example: 'It is an offence to sell products we reasonably believe will be inhaled or ingested or sold for the purposes of being inhaled or ingested.'
It is also a good idea to network with other retailers in the local area to keep informed about local substance misusers and the products they are using.
If you or your staff feel threatened in any way by intoxicated users or aggressive behaviour as a result of refusing to sell the product call the police immediately.