Police are trying to establish whether the death of a man whose body was found in Dunedin's Botanic Gardens this morning is the latest in a spate of "huffing" deaths.
Sergeant Dave Scott said the 27-year-old man's body was found near canisters of "a gas that is commonly misused for inhaling".
"There is evidence at the scene that suggests that he was inhaling some sort of gas."
However, the cause of death had yet to be established and the matter was referred to the coroner.
"The likelihood is there will be a post-mortem performed on the deceased to find out exactly what's gone on."
Mr Scott said police had established he was an unemployed man who had been living in Dunedin but had links to the North Island.
His family were being informed.
In September, Chief Coroner Judge Neil MacLean released a report on "huffing", inhalation of gas to get high, which found 63 people had died in butane inhalation-related incidents since 2000.
He criticised the Government for not doing enough nothing to stop a "lost generation" of youths from killing themselves by sniffing butane-based solvents.
"This is an insidious and extremely dangerous activity that is predominantly killing young males," he said.
Judge MacLean launched an an urgent review into the practice after two Mosgiel teenagers were critically injured in July when an LPG cylinder they were believed to have been huffing from exploded.
New Zealand Drug Foundation executive director Ross Bell said the scale of the problem was starting to be realised due to Judge MacLean's report.
"If that's the number of deaths that would just be the tip of the ice berg."
He said it was a very challenging issue because the people who tended to use the substances were often marginalised.
"They've often been kicked out of school, disengaged from their friends and family, some of them are homeless, so there's a whole lot of complexities wrapped in with the issue.
"Quite often people aren't aware of the risks and even if they are they persist in using the products anyway. That's one of the major challenges."
The Drug Foundation was working with retailers to try and inform them about their responsibilities in selling butane-based products. Some retailers have already moved to ban sales of butane-based products to young people.
APNZ mt lb