UK trade body the British Compressed Gases Association (BCGA) is calling on the UK Government to ban nitrous oxide.
Also known as laughing gas, misuse of nitrous oxide among young people has escalated, to the point where it is now the second most commonly used substance among 16 to 24-year-olds after cannabis.
According to the BCGA, misuse of nitrous oxide can cause permanent damage to the central nervous system, leading to loss of peripheral feeling, motor control and even paralysis. It can also be fatal.
Representing more than 100 companies involved in the supply of industrial, medical, food and gases and related equipment, the BCGA’s Chief Executive Ellen Daniels has written to the Home Secretary, Priti Patel, this week calling for the ban.
The issue was also debated in Parliament on Tuesday night with MPs calling for action to combat the problem.
Recreational inhalation abuse of nitrous oxide is prevalent in the UK. Many public spaces are also becoming littered with the 8g steel mini canisters, which are now the prevalent mode of supply,” Daniels said.
“The BCGA’s position is that the government should implement a straightforward ban on consumer sales of nitrous oxide in order to curb this blight on our society.”
“We call upon government to use their Consumer Protection powers to outright ban all direct consumer sales of nitrous oxide gas.”
Supplying nitrous oxide for inhalation, without appropriate medical licence and qualified supervision, is an offence under the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016.
The BCGA was instrumental in working with government to include nitrous oxide in the Act, but fears the situation is escalating have prompted the call for an outright ban of sales direct to consumers.
“The Psychoactive Substances Act outlawed the knowing or reckless supply of nitrous oxide for inhalation and has also had a good effect in curbing the N20 trade,” Daniels said.
“However, there remains a huge and growing problem in the supply of 8g mini-canisters of the gas.”
“There are legitimate and important uses of gas, which would not be affected by a ban on retail sales, such as medical gas in hospitals, clinics, dental practices and midwifery.”
“Nitrous oxide is also used by professional catering companies to froth and propel synthetic cream. Direct sales to professionals in the catering sector would also be unaffected.”
“However, the use of nitrous oxide for whipping cream is how many of the 8g canisters are sold, for illegitimate use.”
“This is very problematic and introducing the retail ban would be instrumental in addressing this.”
“Domestic synthetic cream frothing and dispense systems are not particularly common in the UK, so a retail ban would affect few consumers and there are well-known alternatives of ready-mixed aerosol cream products widely available.”