Government crackdown on anti-social behaviour

The story:

The sale of laughing gas to the public will be banned as part of a wider crackdown on anti-social behaviour. Levelling up Secretary Michael Gove said the “scourge” of nitrous oxide is turning public places into “drug taking areas” and is helping fuel anti-social behaviour that the Government is trying to stamp out, despite advice from the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs to not ban it. 

The context:

Almost one in ten 16 to 24 year olds reporting having taking the drug in 2019/20 and is one of the most popular recreational drugs amongst young people. 

It is already illegal to produce, supply or import laughing gas for human consumption under the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016, but not possession of the gas is still currently legal. 

Rishi Sunak has ignored independent advice to ban laughing gas in the UK. Experts have criticised the “same old tired drug policy” from the Conservatives, and have insisted the ban will not stop young people from using.

The Government, when outlining the reasons behind the nitrous oxide ban, said it was “concerned about the rise in health and social harms” of the drug “particularly to young people”. 


Several drug charities have openly criticised the announcement, claiming criminalising possession of the gas could lead to the drug become more dangerous.

Steve Rolles, a senior policy analyst at he Transform Drug Policy Foundation said: “Criminalising possession of nitrous oxide will increase health and social harms associated with it.”

He suggested that a more beneficial tactic would be to “sensibly direct resources towards risk education for vulnerable groups” and suggested a recycling deposit scheme for nitrous canisters to reduce litter.

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