Huffing helium is not safe, and adults must stop encouraging children to do it, according to the National Inhalant Prevention Coalition (NIPC), a group that promotes awareness and recognition of inhalant use.

“Unknowing adults demonstrate and often provide helium to kids at parties, or science teachers use it in classes to demonstrate the effects of a gas on vocal cords,” Harvey Weiss, Executive Director of NIPC, said in a news release. “For years I have heard ‘everybody does it,’ and sure enough parents do it as well as Scout leaders, science teachers and even youth pastors. This normalizing of huffing needs to stop and all of us can play a role in that. We must be advocates for children.”

Weiss spoke about the dangers of helium at a press conference in advance of the 20th Annual National Inhalants & Poisons Awareness Week, which runs March 18-24, 2012.

Helium can displace the oxygen in the lungs, leading to oxygen deprivation, according to The Washington Times. This can cause symptoms that range from dizziness to blacking out to cardiac arrest.

Weiss said retailers can reduce helium abuse by placing tanks of the gas higher up on shelves, so they are out of the reach of children. He also called on adults to be more aware of the dangers of huffing helium.

Brian Dyak, President of Entertainment Industries Council Inc., which encourages the media to address social and health issues, called on the entertainment and news industries to educate people about inhalant abuse. The group says inhalant abuse should not be portrayed as glamorous or socially acceptable.