The British Compressed Gases Association (BCGA) has welcomed the first conviction under a new ban on Nitrous Oxide sales – but warned more needs to be done to protect young people.

In a landmark case this month (Feb 2024) a man has been jailed for four months for possession and intent to supply Nitrous Oxide, in the first prosecution since it became an offence.

The move follows a successful campaign by the BCGA, which saw Nitrous Oxide re-classified as a Class C drug with a ban on sales to the general public coming into effect in November 2023, to prevent misuse. This still allows for legitimate uses in the medical, food, chemical and sports industries.

But the conviction comes as a new trend is emerging with larger canisters of the gas, up to 640 grammes being made available online with new candy colours and fruit flavours.

A spokesperson for the BCGA said: “Misuse of Nitrous Oxide can cause significant health issues, including nerve damage and paralysis – it can even be fatal.

“We welcome the fact that the first conviction has taken place, but there is still more work to be done.

“Our campaign for a ban was based around the misuse of 8 gramme chargers and the dangers they can pose.

“Now we are aware that canisters up to 80 times bigger than that are being misused – and that some even appear to be marketed towards younger people online through colourful branding and a range of flavours.

“The compressed gas industry is one of the most highly regulated in the UK and our fear is that the larger containers pose a greater risk to anyone misusing Nitrous Oxide.

“The containers themselves may not be undergoing the regular safety testing that is required of legitimate operators, and there are also concerns around correct disposal, which is only available through limited channels as the containers can ‘blow up’ if mixed with waste for incineration.”

“We also have concerns about the resource having to be used by Local Authorities, Government Agencies and others who have to manage the policing, collection and safe disposal of these containers.”