Nitrous oxide could be banned for antisocial behavior

File photo dated 13/01/20 of canisters of nitrous oxide or nitrous oxide discarded on the side of the road near Ebbsfleet, Kent. Ministers are reportedly planning to ban the sale and possession of so-called nitrous oxide in a bid to tackle anti-social behaviour. Issue date: Thursday January 26, 2023. PA Photo. The Times newspaper reports that under the proposals, drug abuse laws would be updated to allow people found using nitrous oxide in public to be prosecuted. See PA article POLITICS LaughingGas. Photo credit should read: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire

Canisters of nitrous oxide or nitrous oxide are commonly discarded after use (Image: PA)

Ministers could plan to ban the sale and possession of nitrous oxide – in a major crackdown on anti-social behaviour.

You’ll likely recognize the small silver canisters scattered around the streets, especially outside of nightclubs.

Nitrous oxide, also known as laughing gas, has become popular among young people in recent years.

In medical institutions, the drug can be used for pain relief, anesthesia, and to relieve anxiety.

But nitrous oxide is also used in leisure time.

More than half a million young people used the drug between 2019 and 2020, according to the Crime Survey for England and Wales.

This makes it the second most commonly used drug by 16-24 year olds in the UK.

According to government proposals, drug abuse laws could soon be updated to allow those found using nitrous oxide in public to be prosecuted.

The Times reports that under the changes, only those with “legitimate reason” would be exempt. Examples are chefs using it for whipped cream or for freezing and chilling food.

The substance can also be used as a pain reliever during dental treatment or childbirth.

Current legislation prohibits the knowing or reckless supply of inhaled nitrous oxide, but a ban on all direct sales to consumers has been called for as part of a tightening of the commonly used drug law.

A young woman previously told she can no longer walk, eat or wash after years of regularly taking nitrous oxide.

Mandatory Credit: Photo by NIELS WENSTEDT/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock (10351814a) A woman breathes a balloon filled with nitrous oxide (laughing gas) in central Amsterdam, the Netherlands, August 01, 2019. UfoGas vendors drive cargo bikes to various locations in the centre of the city to sell their nitrous oxide-filled balloons. UfoGas nitrous oxide vendors in Amsterdam, The Netherlands - July 31, 2019

A woman inhales a balloon filled with nitrous oxide in central Amsterdam (Image: Shutterstock)

Kerry Donaldson, 25, started inhaling nitrous oxide in 2017 when she and her friends casually took it over the weekend as a “social thing.”

“Everybody did it,” she said.

Kerry, from Newham, east London, eventually lost feeling in her hands and legs and was hospitalized several times.

Police Secretary Chris Philp is reportedly urging an ongoing review of nitrous oxide by the Independent Advisory Board on Drug Abuse to be fast tracked by April.

There have been suggestions that a formal announcement of a ban could be made as part of the government’s anti-social behavior strategy due later this year.

The Prime Minister addressed the issue in his New Year’s address earlier this month, lashing out at anti-social behavior and highlighting the plague of discarded “nitrous oxide canisters in children’s playgrounds”.

The Home Office has been contacted by PA for comment on the reported changes.

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Justin Scaccy

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