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Nitrous Oxide, laughing gas
Hansmuller, Wikimedia Commons

A Labour MP wants to tighten laws around laughing gas

The drug – aka nitrous oxide – has become a talking point amid coronavirus lockdown, but some have claimed that increased restrictions would be counterproductive

The Labour MP Rosie Duffield has called for the government to tighten restrictions on the sale of nitrous oxide (aka laughing gas, aka Nos, aka the metal canisters you see scattered about in the street, or in the aftermath of illegal quarantine raves).

Duffield has also suggested that there should be better education about the risks and potential harm of inhaling the substance, speaking to MPs about its usage, which she claims has increased during coronavirus lockdown.

“Teenagers tell me that boxes sell for as little as £5 locally or I could just walk into one of the 25% of corner shops estimated to sell these chargers,” Duffield said during a recent Commons debate, as reported by the BBC. “If I purchased some canisters for the purpose of indulging a quick lockdown high, I wouldn't have broken the law.”

“It is far too easy to be able to purchase nitrous oxide for use as a recreational drug and every day, up and down the country, thousands of young people are doing just that.”

While nitrous oxide is illegal to sell as a psychoactive drug, it’s commonly used in medicine and the food industry, for example to make whipped cream. This makes its illegal sale pretty hard to police, especially online.

However, Niamh Eastwood, of the drug charity Release, tells the BBC that the organisation hasn’t actually seen an increase in reported use during lockdown, and adds that harsher restrictions would be counter-productive. 

Essentially, Eastwood says, the move would just “end up criminalising children and young people” and could encourage them to move onto more harmful substances.

Multiple MPs have said in the past – such as late last year – that decriminalising drug possession is actually a more important step in combating harm and deaths related to drug use, with claims that to seriously get drugs under control “we must legalise and regulate their supply as well as decriminalising people who use them”.