In a move to curb the misuse of nitrous oxide, commonly known as 'laughing gas', the government has announced its reclassification as an illegal Class C substance. This decision, set to be implemented by year's end, has been welcomed by West Mercia's Police and Crime Commissioner, John Campion, despite the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs recommended against such a classification.
John Campion expressed his concerns about the widespread misuse of nitrous oxide and its detrimental effects on communities. "I have sadly seen first-hand the damage nitrous oxide causes to individuals, communities and its impact on public spaces which are often littered with canisters," he stated.
The amendment to the law means that individuals found in possession of nitrous oxide could face a prison sentence of up to two years or an unlimited fine. This move is aimed at addressing the growing anti-social behaviour associated with the drug's misuse.
John Campion further acknowledged the efforts of Mark Garnier MP, who has been a vocal advocate in Parliament for stricter regulations on nitrous oxide. Campion emphasised his commitment to the Combatting Drugs Partnership in West Mercia, aiming to educate young individuals about the dangers of nitrous oxide. He also assured that there would be early interventions to eradicate this issue from communities, coupled with robust enforcement action by West Mercia Police.
Despite the government's firm stance, the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs had previously recommended against such a classification, citing it would be disproportionate to the harm associated with the gas. The drug, typically inhaled from balloons filled from small silver canisters, can cause symptoms ranging from headaches to more severe nerve-related symptoms.
The government's decision to classify nitrous oxide as a Class C substance comes as part of a broader initiative to tackle anti-social behaviour. The Home Office spokesperson commented, "Those in unlawful possession could face up to two years in prison or an unlimited fine. We are cleaning up our streets and tackling antisocial behaviour."
However, there will be exemptions for nitrous oxide's legitimate uses, such as in medical procedures and in the food industry, where it's used for whipping cream.
Consumers are advised to be cautious and informed about the potential risks associated with nitrous oxide. The government's decision underscores the importance of public safety and the ongoing efforts to ensure the well-being of communities across the UK.