Are Whippets the New Vape?

Confusion over a new law has people worrying over the legality of whipped cream

| 07 Sep 2022 | 10:47

A relatively new law has left businesses and customers in a state of confusion. The bill, known as S.2819A, went into effect last fall, but has come to greater public attention over the last few weeks. This law states that anyone buying whipped cream cartridges or chargers must show ID, to prevent people under the age of 21 from buying them.

This left many people wondering, “Can I buy whipped cream?” The short answer is yes. A person of any age can go into a store and buy a can of whipped cream. Cartridges and chargers refer not to the food itself but to whippets (or whip-its), the common name for nitrous oxide (or laughing gas), the gas that whips the cream into the familiar form we all know. Professional whipped cream dispensers require users to put the nitrous oxide cartridge and cream in separate compartments, that then get mixed together whenever someone tries to use it. This is unlike canned whipped creams (such as Reddi-Whip) where the gas and ingredients aren’t separated, so their is no way to people to inhale the gas on its own.

Whippets are in a category of drug known as inhalants, which includes almost anything you typically take through breathing (poppers, lighter fluid, paint thinners). Whippets can be legally purchased at local grocery and corner stores because they are considered a necessary ingredient to canned whipped cream. You can also find them at kitchenware stores like William Sonoma and Sur la Table.

The DOJ’s Drug Enforcement Administration says, “Inhalants are often among the first drugs that young children use.” This may be in part because of the easy access to household items (mostly cleaning products) that can be used as inhalants. The number of minors who use inhalants decreases as they get older, partly due to access to other drugs. But about 20% of kids report using inhalants by the 8th grade.

Long term use of whippets has side effects like nerve damage, suffocation or seizures; these problems can also be exacerbated in minors and lead to more problems, including “failing grades, chronic absences, and general apathy,” says the DOJ.

Last year State Senator Joseph Addabbo Jr. of Queens learned about the dangers of whippets after constituent complaints about chargers and cartridges being littered. “I know it was being sold at local convenience stores and small grocery stores, to the minors,” says Addabbo. His response was to lead the bill that prohibits people under 21 from buying whippets.

Another major concern for Addabbo was how whippets are marketed. “The manufacturers who make these cartridges in a neon pink, neon green, and market towards the young residents — we saw some of this with the vaping industry,” says Addabbo.

The FDA has already cracked down on the vaping industry, citing marketing to teens through fun colors and flavors as one of the major issues. “Manufacturers that market harmful products toward minors, we should really shed a light on that,” says Addabbo. He is considering creating legislation that restricts manufacturers of whippets, but has no concrete plan in place yet.

“Something Wrong Here”

Though the bill went into effect last November, it received little to no notoriety until a couple of weeks ago. “I first got a call from a reporter in Buffalo; she said ‘canister’ I said ‘charger.’ She said ‘canister’ I said ‘cartridge,’” says Addabbo. “I’m like ‘There’s something wrong here.’ And when I saw the final report that she did, she showed a picture of the Reddi-Wip canister and some handwritten store sign in Sharpie: ‘Must show ID.’” Leading to the implication that whipped cream itself is what can’t be purchased.

Addabbo believes that another part of the confusion stems from the fact that many stores don’t sell cartridges or chargers separately. When they saw the new law they assumed their normal cans of whipped cream were prohibited from being purchased by young people because they didn’t understand the difference between chargers and run-of-the-mill whipped cream.

Many store owners were hesitant to speak about how the new law might affect them, but Ummui Humaira of Village Smoke & Vape was willing to talk to Our Town Downtown. Humaira has only been in charge of the shop for the past month so has not seen many teens come in. Though the shop is located a few blocks from NYU, students were gone for summer until September 1. Even so, most of her business is from adults: “21 [year olds] they came here most because all over here is bars,” says Humaira.

Humaira doesn’t seem too worried about the law affecting her, or altering her business. “Most of the products are not legal to sell for under 21,” she says. Along with whippets she sells other products like vapes and pipes.

Teens and kids today are less likely to disapprove of using inhalants than they were 20 years ago according to a national survey done by Monitoring the Future, sponsored by The National Institute on Drug Abuse at The National Institutes of Health. The number of teens who use inhalants is also increasing (though at a very slow rate of less than 1% per year). It’s unclear at this time whether using whippets will become as popular as other inhalants (predominantly vaping).

But one thing is for sure, and that’s that our whipped cream is safe. “Yes, you can sell a canister of whipped cream to anyone,” Addabbo says. “You do not need to show ID.”