THE UK government has announced its intention to reclassify laughing gas as a class C drug, making it illegal by the end of the year.
The possession of nitrous oxide, commonly known as NOS, will now carry a potential prison sentence of up to two years.
Laughing gas has become one of the most widely used recreational drugs among individuals aged 16 to 24.
Its use saw a significant surge during the pandemic, and the empty canisters have reportedly been discovered scattered across locations in Leigh, Westcliff, and Southend.
Currently, the supply of nitrous oxide for recreational purposes is prohibited, but mere possession is not.
The government had initially unveiled its plan to ban nitrous oxide earlier this year, as part of a broader effort to combat anti-social behaviour.
According to the updated legislation, individuals found in unlawful possession of the drug may face imprisonment for up to two years or receive an unlimited fine, whilst those involved in the supply or production of nitrous oxide for recreational use could face sentences of up to 14 years.
However, exceptions will be made for legitimate uses of nitrous oxide, such as in the medical or catering industries.
Heavy and prolonged use of nitrous oxide can impair one’s ability to walk, lead to falls, or result in tingling or loss of sensation in the extremities. Some users have reported nerve-related issues affecting the bladder or bowel, as well as problems like erectile dysfunction or incontinence.
Announcing the law change, Home Secretary Suella Braverman said people in the UK were “fed up with yobs abusing drugs in public spaces and leaving behind a disgraceful mess for others to clean up.
“Earlier this year the prime minister and I promised a zero-tolerance approach to antisocial behaviour and that is what we are delivering. If you are caught using laughing gas as a drug, you could be hit with a hefty fine or face jail time.”
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