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Parents Suing Video Store for Selling Nitrous Oxide to Kids

Boca, Florida- Like most parents, Mike and Gina Cook said they repeatedly warned their two teenage daughters about the dangers of doing drugs like marijuana and ecstasy. What they didn’t expect to have to protect them from was a local video store, known among teenagers for selling “Whippets,” or “Chargers.”
Receipts from Gold Coast Video on State Road 7, show their eighteen-year-old daughter, Jamie, and friend, Priya Bhaskar, 17, had purchased the Nitrous Oxide chargers along with balloons from the store on June 2.

The teens then popped the canisters, released the gas into a balloon and sucked on the balloon to get an intense high. Minutes later, they were involved in a head on collision on Clint Moore Road.

Jamie lay in a coma for four weeks with a brain hemorrhage, ruptured spleen, torn aorta, dislocated disc and permanent brain damage. After months of physical therapy, the Boca Raton teen is finally home, but far from normal, according to her parents, who announced Wednesday they have filed a lawsuit against Gold Coast Video.

“[Jamie] certainly has to take responsibility for her actions,” said Gina. “But the focus now it to alert other people to try to get the laws changed.”

Mike said he didn’t even know what a whippet was, when sheriff’s deputies told him that they had found the cartridges and balloons in the car. As he watched his daughter lay in a coma, Mike said he promised himself he wouldn’t let the issue go.

“I’m upset that this product is allowed to be sold in stores,” he said. “I want it to be brought to life so other parent and other teens will know.”

Although nitrous oxide is a legal substance, often used in whipped cream dispensers and in dentists’ offices, it is illegal to sell nitrous oxide for the purpose of getting high, according to attorney Joseph Osborne, who filed a compensatory and punitive lawsuit against the video store.

“It’s clear these people are making money off our teenagers and getting them high at the same time,” said Osborne, who points to a state statute that declares you can be criminally responsible for selling substances to help others get high.

But Don, the head manager at Gold Coast video, called the lawsuit frivolous and believes his store shouldn’t be held responsible. Don admitted the store does sell the cartridges, but said “we sell them in our adult room because people like to make their own whip cream.”

As for the balloons, which are allegedly displayed next to the cartridges, Don said they are just “punching balloons that you can buy at K-Mart.” And the same high can be achieved from a regular whipped cream can. But the Cooks aren’t buying it.

“It’s turned our lives upside down,” said Gina, who has quit her job to help care full-time for her daughter.

Although Jamie is able to walk and talk, she still suffers from short-term memory loss, brain damage and severe pain, according to her parents. Bhaskar, who suffered from a fractured ankle and collarbone, left the hospital after one week.

“I’m angry,” said Gina. “It’s so hard to protect your kids. We’re very strict parents. We always wanted to know exactly where they were. I had no idea we’d have to protect [Jamie] from this storefront.”
 

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