Laughing gas ban ‘won’t stop young people from using it,’ experts say

A ban on laughing gas will not stop people from using it and risks putting it into criminal hands, an expert said.

As part of a broader crackdown on anti-social behaviour, ministers are seeking to clamp down on the sale of nitrous oxide, despite an assessment by the independent Advisory Council on Drug Misuse (ACMD) which concluded it would be disproportionate to incorporate an absolute ban.

The Scientific Committee on Drug Sciences is among the groups criticizing the government’s “business as usual drug policy”.

Meanwhile, the Council of National Police Chiefs said it backed the move as it would give them “the ability to seize and dispose of nitrous oxide.”

David Badcock, the organisation’s chief executive, told the PA news agency: “I am very discouraged to hear that it now looks as if the government is going to ban nitrous oxide, it goes completely against their own advisory panel and the advice they gave. .

“A blanket ban on nitrous oxide is completely disproportionate to the harm caused by nitrous oxide and would likely do more harm than good.

“The government should focus on much more serious elements of drug policy that are causing harm, like alcohol, for example.

“What is the point in the ACMD when the best scientists and experts have analyzed the evidence and advised what to do and completely ignore it?

“It’s the same old tired drug policy that the government just keeps throwing out without looking at the evidence, the same old government rhetoric about the war on drugs.

“It won’t stop young people from using it, banning any substance just gets it into the hands of criminals and the inherent risks associated with the black market come into play, I don’t think it will stop people from doing it.”

Leveling Up secretary Michael Gove said the “scourge” of nitrous oxide was turning public spaces into “drug-consuming arenas” and helping fuel anti-social behavior that ministers were determined to stamp out.

Current law prohibits the knowing or reckless supply of inhaled nitrous oxide, and traffickers face up to seven years in prison.

But there have been calls to ban all direct-to-consumer sales.

The drug is usually released in balloons from small silver canisters and then inhaled.

Long-term use can cause vitamin B12 deficiency, anemia, and nerve damage. Doctors previously warned that the use of laughing gas could lead to spinal injuries.

Steve Rolles, Senior Policy Analyst at the Transform Drug Policy Foundation, said: “This administration seems intent on doubling down on the political theater of ‘getting tough’ on drug policing as part of its crackdown on anti-social behaviour.

“But criminalizing possession of nitrous oxide will increase the health and social harms associated with it, creating new costs throughout the criminal justice system.

“To reduce the risks, this government should judiciously direct resources towards risk education for vulnerable groups and restrict sales of the largest nitrous canisters that have no legitimate use.

“To reduce litter, you could adopt a recycling bin scheme for nitrous canisters.”

Jane Slater, campaign manager for Any’s Child: Families for Safer Drug Control, said: “Criminalizing possession of nitrous oxide will only give more young people a criminal record, make its use more dangerous, fuel organized crime activity and will cause more harm to our families and communities

“If this government is serious about tackling nitrous oxide issues, it would listen to experts who recommend a health-based approach supported by better use of existing controls.”

Police Chief Richard Lewis, leader of the National Council of Police Chiefs for Drugs, said: “Surveillance would support making possession of nitrous oxide, without a legitimate reason, a criminal offense, as opposed to supplying and intent to supply.

“Officers would appreciate the ability to seize and dispose of nitrous oxide, as well as provide warnings and make arrests, depending on the situation.”


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