Possession of nitrous oxide (NOS) could result in a prison sentence as the gas has been made a Class C drug. ‘NOS’ is a commonly used drug among 16- to 24-year-olds.
The ban, under the government’s Anti-Social Behaviour Action Plan, means possession with the intent to wrongfully inhale is now an offence. Consequences start at an unlimited fine, community punishment, or a caution. Repeat serious offenders could face up to two years in prison.
Regular abuse of NOS has been shown to be a serious health risk, resulting in anaemia, nerve damage or paralysis. Driving under the influence of could also have fatal consequences. Although a previous review earlier in the year did not advise a ban based on the level of harm caused.
This past summer, 13 tonnes of canisters were collected after the Notting Hill carnival. Other reports link the drug to anti-social behaviour, intimidation, and littering.
‘For too long the use of this drug in public spaces has contributed to anti-social behaviour which is a blight on communities,’ says Chris Philp, Crime and Policing Minister. ‘This law gives the police the powers they need to take a zero-tolerance approach to this crime.’
Nitrous oxide is used for legitimate purposes in other industries, including maternity wards and dentistry. Possession for these purposes will be exempt from the ban.
Producers and suppliers also have a responsibility to ensure customers are buying their product for legitimate reasons. It is also an offence to supply to those who may be intending to misuse the drug, and dealers could face up to 14 years in prison.
Michael Kill, CEO of Night-time Industries Association said more must be done for ‘education and harm reduction’ across the country:
‘The burden on businesses has been substantial, as they’ve contended with mounting pressure from authorities and residents due to the proliferation of discarded silver canisters on the streets.
Anyone concerned about nitrous oxide abuse in local areas can report anti-social behaviour to their neighbourhood policing team, the police, or Crimestoppers.
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