Despite previous reporting indicating otherwise, New York state is not banning the sale of whipped cream cans. In a case of telephone gone awry, a New York senator’s law to keep kids safe has been woefully misconstrued.
You might have heard the news that New York is banning the sale of whipped cream to those under 21 years old. It’s a silly image: Flashing your ID to purchase a can of Reddi-wip at Target in order to enjoy a delicious bowl of your favorite dessert. Nevertheless, the story caught on, and social media and news outlets were quick to run with the seemingly frivolous nature of the topic—except the law these stories are based on has been misinterpreted. The law, sponsored by New York Senator Joseph Addobbo Jr., is not meant to ban the sale of commercial whipped cream cans, but industrial strength whipped cream chargers typically used in commercial kitchens and stores.
“Prohibits the sale of whipped cream chargers to persons under the age of twenty-one,” the bill’s summary reads. Chargers, not canisters. That’s the important part. The bill continues: “Whipped cream chargers, commonly known as whip its, contain nitrous oxide. They are sold by the individual canister or by an entire tank.”
I called a few grocery stores around New York state and most had not even heard of the law yet. One told me that they were carding customers trying to buy whipped cream cans, while another told me that they received clarification that the law only applied to whipped cream chargers—as it was intended. These whipped cream chargers can be purchased at stores like Bed Bath and Beyond and Walmart. Chargers can also be purchased at head shops, which are stores that sell drug paraphernalia since the nitrous oxide found inside them can be inhaled to get high. The National Institute on Drug Abuse cites 16-17 year olds as the most common users of whippets.
“Sadly, young people buy and inhale this gas to get ‘high’ because they mistakenly believe it is a ‘safe’ substance. This law will eliminate easy access to this dangerous substance for our youth,” Senator Addobbo Jr. said in a press release last year. Addobbo Jr. is a democratic senator representing New York’s 15th State Senate District, and his law went into effect all the way back in November 2021, but has recently snowballed given the recent media attention.
The response to Senator Addobbo Jr.’s law is a cautionary tale in media consumption, as many outlets completely misreported it. Meanwhile, some media outlets successfully identified the core of the bill—a ban on the sale of whipped cream chargers for those under 21 years old—but a featured image of a whipped cream can and a punchy headline might have confused audiences, who wound up spreading the story via word of mouth.