By John Smith •
Published: 17 Sep 2023 • 16:23
Discarded empty nitrous oxide capsules
Credit: Hansmuller CC
For years, nitrous oxide (also known as laughing gas) was, amongst other uses, ideal for carbonating drinks and it was easy to purchase small capsules for your SodaStream or similar machine.
Now, the possession of nitrous oxide without a licence will become a criminal offence in the UK by the end of the year with users facing up to two years in prison as the government considers it so dangerous and anti-social.
You can still add fizz to your drinks by adding CO2 but the sight of empty used nitrous oxide cylinders littering the streets of Britain will soon be a thing of the past.
According to the British government, nitrous oxide is the third most used drug among 16 to 24-year-olds in England and police have reported links to anti-social behaviour – intimidating gatherings on high streets and in children’s parks, and empty canisters strewn across public spaces.
Heavy regular use of nitrous oxide can also lead to a deficiency of vitamin B12, a form of anaemia and in more severe cases, nerve damage or paralysis.
There is clearly a different view of the dangers of this gas within the European Union as it is already banned in The Netherlands, but in Spain, there is no legislation to restrict its sale and indeed the Spanish Government has inferred that this is not something that is used by young people to get high although many have seen evidence of empty cylinders (colloquially known as whippits) scattered around parks and waste land.
For those who aren’t aware of the effects of nitrous oxide, it brings on a very brief feeling of dizziness and relaxation lasting for just a minute of two after ingesting the gas which is often downloaded into a balloon and the breathed in.
Inhaling nitrous oxide directly from the canister is very dangerous because the gas is under such high pressure and it comes out as extremely cold which can damage a user’s throat and lungs, inhibit breathing or even slow the heart dangerously.
Commenting on the decision to ban the gas, Home Secretary Suella Braverman said “The British people are 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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Married to Ophelia in Gibraltar in 1978, John has spent much of his life travelling on security print and minting business and visited every continent except Antarctica.
Having retired several years ago, the couple moved to their house in Estepona and John became a regular news writer for the EWN Media Group taking particular interest in Finance, Gibraltar and Costa del Sol Social Scene.
Currently he is acting as Editorial Consultant for the paper helping to shape its future development.
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