The sale of Nitrous oxide, commonly known as laughing gas, is set to be banned in the UK as part of a crackdown on anti-social behaviour, the government has announced, as per a BBC report. Also known as NOS, it is the second most-used drug in the UK by 16 to 24-year-olds, after cannabis.
According to the report, possessing laughing gas will now be made a criminal offence as part of a wider crackdown on anti-social behaviour. While it is illegal to produce, supply or import nitrous oxide for human consumption, possession has so far not been against the law.
Outlining the reason, the government said it was "concerned about the rise in health and social harms" of laughing gas, particularly to young people".
"We are for the first time making possession of nitrous oxide an offence; preventing supply for misuse by putting tighter controls on retailers; and giving greater powers to law enforcement to take action against those who are in breach," the government added.
What is Laughing Gas?
Laughing gas or Nitrous oxide is a colourless gas which is used as an anaesthetic in medical and dental contexts and as a gas for whipped cream. However, when inhaled directly, the drug also known as "hippy crack'', gives the user a short, sharp high. The drug is typically released into balloons from small silver canisters and then inhaled.
As the name suggests, inhalation of the gas can result in giggling fits, and at the same time, it slows down the brain and the body's responses.
Why is it being banned?
While Nitrous oxide can create feelings of euphoria, it can also lead to headaches, dizziness, paranoia, sound distortions and hallucinations. If the user inhales too much nitrous oxide, they risk fainting and/or suffocating from a lack of oxygen.
Prolonged use can cause vitamin B12 deficiency, anaemia, and nerve damage and could also lead to spinal injuries.
According to the Office for National Statistics, there were 36 deaths in Great Britain associated with nitrous oxide between 2001 and 2016.
On Sunday, levelling up secretary Michael Gove said the ''scourge'' of nitrous oxide was turning public spaces into ''drug-taking arenas.''
''Antisocial behaviour can ruin lives. I think anyone who has the opportunity to walk through our parks in our major cities will have seen these little silver canisters, which are examples of people not only spoiling public spaces but taking a drug which can have a psychological and neurological effect and one that contributes to antisocial behaviour overall,'' Mr Gove told Sky News.