Once upon a time, all London’s road men needed was a pack of party balloons and some whipped cream canisters for a guaranteed good time. However, next month, nitrous oxide, also known as laughing gas or NOS (the gas inhaled from said balloons), will be made illegal as the government attempts to clamp down on antisocial behaviour.
Under the new legislation, the substance will become a controlled Class C drug under the Misuse of Drugs Act (1971) from the 8th of November, meaning users could face up to two years behind bars. Meanwhile, the sentence for dealers has doubled to 14 years.
Ministers believe the drug is responsible for antisocial behaviour in London’s neighbourhoods as it introduces unwanted social gatherings, a stance that the Neighbourhood Watch has echoed. Walking through the streets of London, it doesn’t take a keen eye to see the remnants of NOS use. The gas canisters are often found lining the streets, supposedly another reason why the government is eager to crack down on the NOS epidemic.
It has been reported that the drug is second most commonly used amongst 16-24-year-olds, only coming second to cannabis. Healthcare professionals have also reported the damaging effects of using NOS recreationally, with risks ranging from anaemia, nerve damage and paralysis.
The rise of the drug can be attributed to all the paraphernalia being readily available in the many corner shops dotted across the capital. A pack of party balloons and a box of whipped cream canisters are not too unusual to be stocked in these corner shops.
However, the use of nitrous oxide will still be permitted for its intended purposes, such as in professional kitchens and in dentists and maternity wards for pain relief. So it’s not a complete blow to road men just yet, though the government has urged suppliers to be more responsible about selling nitrous oxide. Still, some believe the new legislation is unnecessary as it will lead the balloon-huffing youths to search elsewhere or move on to more dangerous substances.