Minnesota huffing bill turns tragedy into triumph

One man’s deadly struggle with huffing may be a lifesaver for hundreds of others.

FOX 9 first told you the story of Tommy Byers last year.

Byers loomed large over the Capitol Tuesday. As his family gathered for an informal bill signing in an almost empty Senate committee room, they felt his presence and shared credit for Tommy’s Law.

"Once again, my son is doing what he always did: Doing something great," said Tom Byers.

"Tommy, I promised you at your memorial service and my eulogy in front of hundreds of people that we would help parents who've lost a child and that we would do it together, me and you," said his mother, Katie O'Meara.

Tommy Byers died in 2022 at the age of 34.

His parents found dozens of cans of compressed air in his Golden Valley apartment.

What killed him was the 1, 1-difluoroethane — or DFE — in those cans.

Within months, his mother was at the Capitol putting her pain on display.

"This is a parent's literally a parent's nightmare," O'Meara told a House committee in February."

She pushed the legislature to restrict access to DFE at retailers.

Aerosol dusters will now have to be kept behind the counter, only people over the age of 21 can buy them and the most they can buy at a time is three.

Sen. Alice Mann, (DFL)-Edina, is a doctor who sponsored the bill, even though she never knew Tommy.

"I do have the honor and the pleasure of knowing that his life is going to positively impact the lives of so many other people," Sen. Mann said.

She says this is an example of how to turn a tragedy into something incredible and how some of the best laws are made out of a need to protect from broken hearts.

"And I love you the whole world and beyond, honey," said O'Meara before signing off. "Mommy."

The law takes effect on Jan. 1 and it also calls for labels to include large warnings that the product can kill you if you inhale it to get high.