Hippy crack is ‘no laughing matter’ as trade body calls for sales ban

There are calls for an “outright ban” on the sale of nitrous oxide, also known as laughing gas or hippy crack..

The trade body representing the UK’s compressed gas industry says the gas is the second-most commonly used substance among 16 to 24-year-olds in England after cannabis, with half a million people having tried it last year.

The British Compressed Gases Association (BCGA) says the misuse of nitrous oxide can cause permanent damage in the central nervous system or paralysis.

It can even be fatal.

The BCGA said 12% of substance-related deaths mentioned nitrogen or nitrous oxide on the death certificate.

The gas is sold in small metal canisters which can cost as little as £5 each, making it especially popular among teenagers.

Nitrous oxide canisters made for the purpose of prolonging the shelf life of whipped cream and other products are completely legal and readily available. Anyone can buy these without a permit.

However their sale for recreational purposes is prohibited under the the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016.

The BCGA, which represents more than 100 companies involved in the supply of industrial, medical, food and gases and related equipment, said it wanted to work with authorities on how to enforce a ban.

The association’s chief executive Ellen Daniels has written to the home secretary calling for a total sales ban on the gas.

“Recreational inhalation abuse of nitrous oxide is prevalent in the UK,” she said.

“Used inappropriately it can cause serious damage to the health and livelihood of users and can prove fatal.”

On Tuesday, parliament debated the possibility of restricting sales of the gas, with Labour’s Rosie Duffield saying that nitrous oxide was “no laughing matter”.

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