Sunday, July 04, 2010


I should like to thank this week’s Xpress newspaper for the instruction manual on substance abuse. In addition to a full front page headline, there are four complete pages inside that include detailed information of the types of chemicals suitable for inhaling along with valuable instructions and diagrams showing some good ways to get stoned. *ahem!*

The issue of teenagers snorting butane, paint thinners, petrol, Tipp-Ex and EvoStik suddenly popped on to the local headlines following the recent tragic death of Anton Tahmasian. Since then, barely a day goes by without a related story appearing somewhere. The Xpress article suggests that solvent abuse is so widespread that business savvy teens are charging admission to parties in posh Jumeirah villas where less savvy teenagers abuse themselves into stupor on a lethal mix of vodka and butane. And here was I, believing that drink-driving was the traditional way of lethally combining hydrocarbons with alcohol.

In other news, another recent storyline involving teenagers and flammable substances concerned an explosion in a Mirdif villa that seriously burned four teenagers. Civil Defence (the Fire Brigade) is on record that investigations into the Mirdif blast are ongoing. The official line is that someone lit the oven, igniting a gas leak.

Interestingly, Xpress does not seem to believe this version of events. Last week’s issue included photographs that show no damage to the kitchen, cooking gas bottles outside remain untouched and almost full, yet the cellar looks like a bomb’s hit it. Big surprise, that. Methane leaking into the cellar from a broken septic tank in sufficient quantities to explode, yet no-one noticed the repugnant miasma of sewer gas? Another big surprise. Perhaps these noxious and highly flammable fumes were ignited by sparks from unicorns’ hooves. This appears about as likely as the rest of the hypothesis.

It was only a matter of time before someone connected the two stories. From Xpress:
    “I strongly believe that butane is the common thread that sews together the death of Anton, the four Mirdif teenage girls (whose faces were disfigured in a mysterious gas explosion inside a villa basement) and the poolside party gone wrong at our villa,” said the [anonymous] parent, who called on authorities “to do something before it’s too late”.

    A police source added weight to the parent’s statement stating there were indications that butane may have been one of the reasons behind the Mirdif blast.
The implication is clear. Mentioning the gas explosion in an article about substance abuse must surely be paving the way for some sensationalist “Shock! Horror! Snorting butane whilst smoking cigarette causes explosion” headline.

Incidentally, what does the parent expect the authorities to do “...before it’s too late”? Incidences of death and near-death indicate to me that “too late” is already upon us. Controlling one’s own offspring is apparently not an option. Neither, apparently, is Taking Responsibility For One’s Own Actions. It suddenly all becomes the government’s responsibility to deal with the problem. But how? Inhaling camping gas is clearly idiotically foolish, but is it actually illegal?

I anticipate the usual knee-jerk reaction: a ban. Extending this “Ban It” philosophy to its logical consequence, I shall particularly resent no longer being able to cook with gas while I’m camping, simply because some yoof believes that butane is for inhaling. No more cooking at home either, once all the guys in little red pickups are deported for purveying their Death in a Bottle.



nzm said...

All the parents need to do is buy their kids some cans of solvent and warn them not to smoke while inhaling. Fixes 2 problems - responsible parenting takes place, and the butane ban will not happen. ;.)

samuraisam said...

I don't see why this is such a big deal to be honest, solvent abuse is a big problem in every single country on earth.

I know of a story of 3 Emirati boy's that were inhaling butane in an abandoned house when they caught fire (basically in an explosion) and were seriously, seriously injured (I cannot recall whether any of them were killed, but I do know that one of them is permanently disabled for the rest of his life)

I know of another story of a few boys that were doing the same thing in a car, when the car exploded. The police came, thought they were injecting butane into the engine to get it going faster (!?) and then realized what was actually going on. Sent them to hospital, got blood tests done which showed banned substances (not butane) and arrested and imprisoned (even though they were consumed in another country and none were possessed or used in the UAE).

These stories date back 5-10 years, so I guess I am still left wondering why this is such a big deal. It is obviously a tragedy. Will banning butane fix anything? Probably not, because the newspaper said he inhaled deodorant and not butane, so banning butane is completely irrelevant.

There are literally hundreds of household items that can be abused the exact same way. As you said, are we seriously going to restrict people from refilling their lighters? or purchasing butane for their blowtorches (people have to light their shisha coal some other way) and camping lanterns? How about banning people from using whipped cream? Or ban people from using compressed air to clean their camera/computer equipment?

There are obviously other social problems at play here.

samuraisam said...

I'll expand on the social problems part of what I said: There is nothing for teenagers to do here. You can't get part time jobs easily, You can't legally drink alcohol, You can't drive, You can't go to the beach because 90% of beaches are now owned by hotels, You can't have shisha until you're 20.

In fact,
the only thing to do until you reach the age of 20/21 is visit the vast selection of malls in Dubai.

Stained said...

When I was a teenager, I had enough to do in life apart from hitting malls. It's called outdoor sports, even in the scorching heat of summer, I still managed to get at least a couple of hours of sports almost every day...

The problem with the current crop of teenagers is they are pampered delicate babies who pop a rash after spending a minute in the they end up doing stupid things...

What we need here is a government backed teenage program making extra curriculum sports activities compulsory...or something of that sort...

Jayne said...

The more you ban a substance, the more appealing it becomes, because of its illegality. Banning butane certainly won't solve any problems. I honestly never realised there were youngsters psychologically desperate enough (living in the UAE) to resort to doing something as bloody idiotic as this.

Mme Cyn said...

I agree with you whole heartedly, Stained.

What ever happened to parenting? And why have kids got so much free time they can complain about being bored? What happened to homework? Music lessons/ practice? Sports (yeah, I know about the heat)? Chores around the house (gasp!)Sorry, I just don't buy the "there's nothing for teens to do so they'll abuse substances" line.

Where are parents?

Rootless said...

I blame the maids!! Where were they when all this westernised immoral debauchery was being inflicted on our desert paradise of purity?? Are they not paid far more than they could ever earn in their home-country hell-holes to raise the next generation of oligarchs and autocrats of villa-land??


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