The British Compressed Gases Association (BCGA) has welcomed reports the UK Government could implement a ban on direct-to-consumer sales of Nitrous Oxide.
The trade body has been campaigning for legitimate uses in industry and healthcare to be protected, but retail sales of the gas to be banned since March 2020.
Its work resulted in dialogue with former Home Secretary Priti Patel who triggered a review of current legislation by the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD).
In October, the BCGA wrote to Home Secretary Suella Braverman MP reiterating calls for a ban, and receiving assurance from Rt Hon Chris Philp MP, Minister for Crime, Policing and Fire at the Home Office, that the Government would consider ACMD’s advice carefully, before making a decision.
The results of the ACMD review have not yet been announced, but newspaper reports indicated a ban may be introduced as part of a crackdown on anti-social behaviour.
BCGA Chief Executive Ellen Daniels said: “We welcome reports that the Prime Minister and his Government have heard our concerns around the misuse of Nitrous Oxide and offer our help and support to any plans that would introduce a retail ban while protecting legitimate uses in areas including dental, healthcare, motorsport and industry, as well as catering and hospitality settings.
“As a trade body, we have been campaigning for almost three years for a change in the law that would drive down Nitrous Oxide abuse.
“After cannabis, it is the most commonly used substance among 16 to 24-year-olds and misusing Nitrous Oxide can cause permanent damage to the central nervous system including loss of peripheral feeling, loss of motor control and paralysis. In some cases, it can be fatal.”
Recent speeches by PM Rishi Sunak and Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, Michael Gove, have indicated that the UK could follow the Netherlands, where a ban on retail sales of Nitrous Oxide came into force on January 1.
In a statement to the House of Commons this week Michael Gove said: “To level up truly we must also ensure that people feel safe in their communities.
“We know that this is a real priority for our communities who want strong, practical action to tackle crime and anti-social behaviour. Graffiti, vandalism, disorder and evidence of drug use makes daily life a misery.
“Working with the Home Office, the Department for Education and the Ministry of Justice, we will shortly announce plans that will deliver for communities, giving them the confidence that the places they love can and will be protected and enhanced.”
This follows a speech made by PM Rishi Sunak this month highlighting the impact Nitrous Oxide misuse can have on communities: “Strong communities are also built on values, on the golden rule: treat others as you would like to be treated yourself.
“But too often, a small minority break that golden rule. They spray graffiti on war memorials. Discard needles and Nitrous Oxide cannisters in children’s playgrounds. Gang together and cause disorder and disruption.
“Anti-social behaviour isn’t inevitable or a minor crime. It makes life miserable for so many and it can be a gateway to more extreme crimes.”
In 2019, half a million young people had used Nitrous Oxide, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS) and 12% of substance-related deaths mentioned nitrogen or nitrous oxide on the death certificate: Deaths related to volatile substances and helium in Great Britain – Office for National Statistics (ons.gov.uk)
The BCGA has a webpage dedicated to gas abuse: Gas Abuse – (bcga.co.uk) where a leaflet outlining the dangers of misusing Nitrous Oxide can be downloaded.