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Reader Letters

A Marked Difference of Opinion

Mr. Murphy,

After reading your article on felt-tip markers and the effects of huffing, I can only conclude you are obviously brain-damaged. No citizen, parent or otherwise caring person would write such a ridiculous missive about something as dangerous as huffing. The article is not funny; it is offensive and just plain stupid.

Far too many of our young children are experimenting with this form of substance abuse because products are: 1) easy to get (available in most homes and grocery stores); 2) inexpensive ($1.50 will buy a marker or can of air freshener); 3) available to produce a “quick” high that is often undetected; and 4) legal.

The main message here should be that even though markers smell good to some, inhaling these fumes can be damaging to the brain, central nervous system, organs and bone marrow. Are you also aware that hundreds of kids die every year from huffing? There is a medical condition called “sudden sniffing death syndrome” that a child can experience when sniffing or huffing which causes the heart to beat rapidly or erratically and when adrenaline occurs from either excitement or fear, the heart stops in cardiac arrest—the huffer is dead. Far too many of our very young children are lost to this serious condition every year.

Furthermore, are you aware that nationally, 26% of both sixth- and eighth-graders are taking part in this dangerous activity? I would hope that you personally do not want to be responsible for further increasing these epidemic numbers.

The Alliance for Consumer Education is a nonprofit foundation dedicated to advancing education on such matters as inhalant abuse. We take this issue very seriously, as it affects the quality of life for all children, their parents and communities.


Cindi Bookout
Executive Director
Alliance for Consumer Education

Mr. Murphy responds:

Ms. Bookout,

Thanks for the note. I appreciate your concern and have no argument with the facts you cite (although your rhetorical approach leaves something to be desired). You have discharged your professional responsibility admirably, and with your letter will no doubt educate a number of people on the hazards of marker huffing and the extent of the problem.

However, as far as my piece goes, ultimately any disagreement we have comes down to aesthetic differences. Assuming you understand the piece was satirical, it clearly goes beyond the bounds of what you feel can be treated humorously. For me and at least one or two other people, it doesn’t cross that line, although you are not the first to feel that it does. Frankly, I’m of the opinion that very little can’t or shouldn’t be joked about, but all of this is a matter of taste. On that I’m content for us to disagree.

Keep up the good work,

Colin J. Murphy
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