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The UK government is banning poppers

If you like sniffing alkyl nitrites then now is the time to stock up – despite a Tory MP saying he loves them, the government is getting rid

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In spite of opposition from the gay community and expert testimony from drugs experts, the Government has moved to ban poppers.

Yesterday, the Psychoactive Substances Bill was passed by the House of Commons without a vote. Prior to the passage of the Bill, Labour tabled an amendment to exclude poppers from the new law, which also outlaws a range of so-called ‘legal highs’ commonly sold in headshops. After much debate, Labour’s amendment was defeated by 81 votes in the Commons, although not befpre Tory MP Crispin Blunt ‘outed’ himself as a poppers user, in an attempt to halt the ban.

Given how few openly gay MPs there are in the Commons, Blunt's speech was pretty remarkable. After describing the ban as “crazy”, he went on to say, “I use poppers – I out myself as a popper user – and would be directly affected by the Bill. I am astonished by the proposal to ban them, as are very many other gay men.”

While the sight of buttoned-up Tory MPs disclosing their own personal drug consumption definitely made for one of the more interesting days on BBC Parliament, Blunt’s intervention wasn’t enough to prevent the ban on poppers from going ahead.

Commonly used by men within the gay community during sex, studies have shown that poppers on their own aren’t necessarily harmful. A parliamentary report even recommended that the Government should exclude poppers from the Bill – a recommendation they chose to ignore.

It’s worth pointing out that, under the new law, consumption of poppers won’t actually become illegal, but their supply will be. The Government has also stated that it may overturn their decision following a review of the evidence, to be held by this summer ­– suggesting that they might ‘unban’ them if it turns out they fucked up.

Paul Twocock from the charity Stonewall said “‘We think the Government’s move for an immediate review of the evidence of harm is right, but going ahead with a ban before that review is concluded is not acceptable. It will cause confusion and force gay and bi men who use poppers to help them have anal sex to go to illegal drug suppliers from April and that could put their health at serious risk.”

Dazed interviewed Dr Timothy Hildebrandt, an expert in LGBT rights at the London School of Economics. “In most places in the world, poppers have long occupied a legal grey area – they’re sold as VHS cleaners, for example, in the US. A lot of people will view this ban as further stigmatizing the gay community. For a long time, being gay was associated with HIV/Aids, and now it’s being associated with drug use. 

This doesn’t appear to me to be evidence based policy-making. The Government seems to have lumped a lot of ‘legal highs’ in together without proper consideration of what should and shouldn’t be excluded. For those of us that collect evidence for a living, this is frustrating”.

The new law won’t come into effect until April 1, so you might want to stock up before then.