More must be done to raise awareness of the harmful effects of laughing gas, council leaders have said after it emerged that officials are seizing “hauls” of canisters from the streets of England and Wales.
It was “deeply disturbing” that people widely view nitrous oxide as a safe legal high, the Local Government Association (LGA) said.
The association, which represents around 400 councils in England and Wales, said local authorities were seizing the gas in large quantities. Hackney council in east London confiscated more than 1,200 canisters on one Saturday night in July outside the pubs and clubs of Shoreditch.
Inhaling nitrous oxide was not illegal, the LGA said, but council officers seized the cannisters – used to fill balloons with the gas that are sold to users for around £5 – under unauthorised street trading regulations.
Officials in Norfolk, Hertfordshire and Thames Valley had reported increasing numbers of canisters being found, the LGA said. It raised concerns that images of the internet of children inhaling had served to glamorise it.
The chemical – taken at nightspots, festivals and parties – was being used by almost half a million young people across the country and had been linked to a number of deaths, the LGA said. Abusing nitrous oxide could lead to oxygen deprivation resulting in loss of blood pressure, fainting and heart attacks.
“It is deeply disturbing that this drug, which can be highly dangerous, is still widely viewed as safe,” said Katie Hall, chairwoman of the LGA’s community wellbeing board.
“It is imperative that users understand just how harmful it can be. This gas can kill and much more needs to be done to get this message across.
“We are particularly concerned about internet pages and uploaded clips which are effectively promoting this as a harmless drug. We are calling on the big internet corporations to step up to the plate and show responsibility by providing health warnings and links to drug awareness charities. It is wholly unacceptable that this craze is being glamorised and encouraged in this way.”
The Guardian/ August 9, 2014
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Nitrous Oxide Warnings Often Overlooked, Authorities Say