The Korea Herald


Concern raised over compressed air dusters misused as drug

By Lee Jung-joo

Published : Sept. 8, 2023 - 14:48

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Compressed air dusters, readily available in ordinary stores for household tasks such as cleaning electronics, are a recent point of concern for their potential to be misused as a drug alternative, following a "JTBC Newsroom" report Thursday.

Air dusters use compressed air to clean surfaces and remove dust and dirt from products such as keyboards. They can be bought without any restrictions at a low price, starting from 2,000 won ($1.50), and can be misused for a hallucinogenic effect.

A drug user in his 20s told JTBC that he became addicted to inhaling gas released from the compressed air cans after being treated for his addiction to methamphetamine. “I thought I was over my drug addiction, but that was before I knew about gas dusters,” he said. “Whenever I inhale air duster gas, I see dainty hallucinations and get various inspirations.”

Another rapper also said that he had started inhaling from gas dusters three years ago because they are not classified as drugs. “Gas dusters are pretty popular,” the rapper told JTBC. “Its addictive qualities surpass most drugs.”

There have also been reports of patients in drug rehabilitation centers bringing in air dusters to inhale.

While gas dusters are extremely addictive, experts warn their side effects are just as bad. “Air duster gas is two to ten times more damaging to the brain than cocaine,” said National Forensic Psychiatry Hospital head Cho Sung-nam.

Despite its addictive nature and dangerous side effects, there are no regulations currently placed on purchasing gas dusters. Buyers do not have to present personal identification or verify their age when purchasing the canisters.

Similarly, after the late 1980s and early 1990s when inhaling butane gas became popular among teenagers here, South Korea placed age regulations on purchasing butane gas starting from 1997, and made it mandatory to add foul-smelling substances inside.

As controversy has sparked over gas dusters, a major retail chain has already stopped selling them. However, the gas dusters can still be easily bought online from 2,140 won.

Various types of gas dusters are being sold on the internet, starting from 2,140 won. (Naver) Various types of gas dusters are being sold on the internet, starting from 2,140 won. (Naver)

Inhaling products that are not labeled as a drug or controlled substance, such as butane gas, adhesive mixtures and gas dusters, can still be punished.

Article 22 of the Chemical Substances Control Act reads: “No person shall ingest or inhale hallucinogenic substances prescribed by Presidential Decree or possess them for the purpose of ingestion or inhalation.” The same law reads that those who inhale or ingest hallucinogenic substances as a drug can face imprisonment of up to three years or a fine of up to 50 million won.