Stupid drug story of the week: NBC's Today show discovers huffing.

Media criticism.
Nov. 20 2009 4:53 PM

Stupid Drug Story of the Week

NBC's Today show discovers huffing.

(Continued from Page 1)

I could go on and on about the awfulness of the Today segment. I could write an angry paragraph about the hackery of playing "sad" music on the soundtrack as its reporter narrates the story of a 14-year-old who killed himself by inhaling Dust-Off. I could rail about the absence of any numbers to prove its assertion that huffing is a deadly trend. (It would be useful to know if more or fewer kids are killing or damaging themselves with inhalants than in previous years.) I could gripe about Today's failure to distinguish among the different kinds of inhalants (volatile solvents, aerosols, gases, nitrites, etc.) and the absence of any discussion of the nonlethal health dangers posed by the compounds. And I could close with a complaint about its hidden camera "gotcha," in which two child actors were video recorded buying inhalants in New York City stores.

I hope that few kids viewed Today's segment. Its tabloidy salaciousness is enough to give the impressionable—or the death-defying—the idea that they should try inhalants.


Don't do inhalants. They are an incredibly dangerous way to get high. (The Drug Oracle has spoken.) Thanks to reader Rob Lapp for alerting me to the segment. For a little ancient history on inhalants, see this chapter from Edward M. Brecher's 1972 book Licit and Illicit Drugs. Brecher was a wise man, and I still find his book valuable. I read all e-mail sent to, and if you're as sharp as I think you are, you're already following my Twitter feed. (E-mail may be quoted by name in "The Fray," Slate's readers' forum; in a future article; or elsewhere unless the writer stipulates otherwise. Permanent disclosure: Slate is owned by the Washington Post Co.)


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Jack Shafer was Slate's editor at large. You can follow him on Twitter or email him at