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The Tories now want to ban laughing (gas)

No more joy. No more

According to reports in The Times, the UK Home Office is currently preparing to enact a ban on the sale and possession of nitrous oxide (laughing gas). The drug is currently, after cannabis, the most used recreational drug by 16 to 24-year-olds, with one in ten of that age group reportedly having taken it. 

To no surprise, Home Secretary Suella Braverman is behind the move, and it was announced as a part of wider growing plans lined out by Rishi Sunak to help tackle “antisocial” behaviour. Although legal highs were banned back in 2016, anyone caught in possession of the drug in public would be at risk of prosecution under a proposed revision of the drug misuse laws.

Of course, there is a grey area with the drug, as it has legitimate uses in various industries and up until now has been easy to buy online. Laughing gas is used in hospitals and dental practices as a form of pain relief, and in catering for the production of whipped cream and for freezing food. The proposed laws would mean that anyone with a “legitimate” reason, like those mentioned previously, would be able to be in possession of the drug (so next time you’re at a festival and you see a chef handing out nos canisters, now you know why). 

Like any drug, laughing gas carries real risks that have obviously assisted in the new laws being proposed. When recreationally taken, the drug is usually inhaled through balloons and can induce feelings of euphoria, as well as dizziness and sedation. The danger of recreational laughing gas lies in what it actually does to your body when it is inhaled, preventing oxygen from getting to your brain and blood. Long-term use has been linked to a depletion of vitamin B12 – vital in supporting healthy functioning of the nervous system – which can cause nerve and brain damage. 

Looking at the bigger picture, however, it feels like a small issue to focus on given the current state of the UK. In the Prime Minister’s New Year speech, Rishi Sunak stated that the appearance of canisters, a common sight in most public spaces, “makes life miserable for so many” and that dumping the canisters, alongside other antisocial behaviours, acts as a “gateway to more extreme crimes”. The proposed law will result in policing that unfairly impacts young people with Release charity believing it could leave tens of thousands with criminal records. 

The Tories have been responsible for huge cuts to public services because of their austerity measures, obviously a key factor in an increase of antisocial behaviour, yet they continue to peddle an agenda that appeals to their older voters, like moving backwards with LGBTQ+ rights and calling for harder policing on illegal drugs and immigration. It would be totally against their track record to actually affect positive change and take any accountability for anything, though. 

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