Retailer strategy

In 2006, the Drug and Alcohol Office (now Mental Health Commission) in partnership with the Retail Trader’s Association of WA and the Hardware Association of WA developed a Code of Conduct to guide retailers in the responsible sale of volatile substances. The Code of Conduct is also endorsed by WA Police.

The Code of Conduct – Supply of Volatile Substances, which can be found in the Volatile Substance Use Retailer's kit, asks retailers to:

  • refuse sale of volatile substances to individuals where it is reasonable to suspect that the product will be used for the purpose of intoxication 
  • display high-risk volatile substance products (such as portable butane products and aerosol spray paints) behind the counter or in locked display cabinets away from the general public
  • display signs, preferably adjacent to these products, indicating your right to refuse sales
  • use ‘dummy’ containers for display purposes
  • ask about the purpose of frequent or large quantities of these products being purchased
  • keep all staff informed of the relevant laws and the potential misuse of these products for the purpose of intoxication.

Every year the VSU Retailer's kit is made available to thousands of retailers across WA. The kit contains an information booklet, the Code of Conduct, signage for store use and information posters for staff. The kit aims to assist retailers to:

  1. identify products that may be misused
  2. display and sell products in ways that restrict access to and make products less attractive to inhalant users
  3. identify potential users and potential suppliers to users.

The kit provides retailers with information about the issue of VSU; the responsible sale of volatile substance products; retailers’ legal rights and responsibilities; suggested procedures for refusal of sale to customers; and important contacts for further information and support.

The development of the Code of Conduct was one of the recommendations of the Western Australian Taskforce on Butane Misuse. Thus it is primarily concerned with reducing access to butane products, being one of the most dangerous volatile substances with respect to causing death. However, aerosol spray paints are also included, being one of the more commonly misused volatile substances also containing butane, or similar, as the propellant.

Information and support

For more information about how you can support the role of retailers in preventing the misuse of volatile substances in the community, contact the Volatile Substances Program at the Mental Health Commission or see the Working Groups in WA page of this website for any VSU strategies in your area.

If you are aware of a retailer that is displaying or selling volatile substances in a way that is of concern to you, contact the Volatile Substances Program at the Mental Health Commission.