The British Compressed Gases Association (BCGA) has highlighted the dangerous of nitrous oxide abuse in a public health campaign.

The campaign has been recognised at the Memcom Awards 2021, with the trade body shortlisted in the Best Public Awareness Campaign accolade. With exposure to millions of people across the UK, the campaign included press coverage, an information leaflet and a briefing document for MPs.

Nitrous oxide, or ‘laughing gas’, is the most commonly used substance by 16 to 24-year-olds after cannabis, leading to BCGA calling for a ban on retail sales of the product.

Sales would still continue within the commercial sector in industry, medicine, and catering, but would be prevented direct to members of the public.

The BCGA launched the campaign for a ban on retail sales of the gas in 2020, after working with the Government to ensure the inclusion of nitrous oxide in the 2016 act.

Ellen Daniels, Chief Executive of the BCGA, said, “Our campaign has made great strides in raising public awareness of the misuse of nitrous oxide – and significantly advanced our cause in calling for a retail ban.”

“If the Government legislates in line with our proposals, the supply of nitrous oxide would be protected for legitimate use in industry, food services and the health sector, while safeguarding against its misuse.”

Considered an offense under the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016 to supply nitrous oxide for inhalation without an appropriate medical license and qualified supervision, misuse can cause permanent damage in the central nervous system.

This damage can lead to loss of peripheral feeling, motor control and even paralysis, in some cases being fatal.