Festivalgoers, partiers, and even celebrities have all been seen inhaling nitrous oxide – marking a sudden rise in the popularity of those sampling the latest ‘legal high’.

But Lambeth Council has become the first in London to impose fines for anyone caught in possession or using nitrous oxide. Users will be given on the spot fines of £100 or face a penalty of up to £1,000 if the case is referred to magistrates.

The move by Lambeth Council comes as a response to the death of a South London teen whom was reportedly inhaling the gas at a party and subsequently died from heart failure.

Earlier this year gasworld featured a Hot Topic covering the government’s announcement in May that it would publish a Bill to introduce a blanket ban on such substances, which are often sold online or on the high street. Newsagents, corner shops and dedicated ‘head shops’ offer these substances openly, and in engaging packaging, and product names.

The Psychoactive Substances Bill will prohibit and disrupt the production, distribution, sale and supply of new psychoactive substances (NPS) in the UK. The new ban will extend to the sale of nitrous oxide for human inhalation, although its legitimate sale will not be affected. It will essentially give police and other law enforcement agencies greater powers to tackle the trade in such substances, rather than having to take a substance-by-substance approach.

The Minister of State for Policing, Crime, Criminal Justice and Victims, Mike Penning, added, “The landmark bill will fundamentally change the way we tackle new psychoactive substances – and put an end to the game of cat and mouse in which new drugs appear on the market more quickly than government can identify and ban them.”

Assuming the Bill becomes law, which might be as soon as spring 2016, it will be an offence to produce, supply, offer to supply, possess with intent to supply, import or export psychoactive substances; that is, any substance intended for human consumption that is capable of producing a psychoactive effect.

According to the Home Office, the maximum sentence will be seven years’ imprisonment. All of the UK will be affected by the blanket ban and law enforcement powers would be extended to all NPS supply from UK websites, so they can be shut down, while it will also capture substances that, although not new, are psychoactive, have been used as intoxicants for many years, and are not harm free. This now includes nitrous oxide.

Lambeth Council, clearly, has taken steps to impose fines and curb the attraction to this new trend.