‘Hippy crack’ laughing gas to become illegal next month - with dealers facing up to 14 years behind bars

18 October 2023, 13:08

Nitrous oxide will be illegal from next month.
Nitrous oxide will be illegal from next month. Picture: Alamy

By Jenny Medlicott

Possession of laughing gas as a recreational drug is set to become illegal next month and dealers of the drug could face up to 14 years in prison.

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The Home Office has said that nitrous oxide, also known as ‘hippy crack’, will become illegal from November 8 onwards.

Possession of the laughing gas with the intention to wrongfully inhale it will be an offence that could result in an unlimited fine, a visible community punishment, a caution which would appear on their criminal record or a prison sentence, the Home Office said.

Serious repeat offenders could face up to two years in jail while dealers could face up to 14 years behind bars.

Those with a legitimate reason to possess the drug will be exempt from the ban, it was also added.

The nitrous oxide ban was promised as part of the Government's Anti-Social Behaviour Action Plan and it will make the substance a controlled class C drug under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.

Typically the drug is used as a pain relief in maternity wards and in the catering sector, where it is used for whipped cream canisters.

‘Hippy crack’ is the third most used drug among people aged 16-24 in England and has been linked to antisocial behaviour, according to police.

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Offenders could receive an unlimited fine.
Offenders could receive an unlimited fine. Picture: Alamy

“We are delivering on the promise we made to take a zero-tolerance approach towards antisocial behaviour and flagrant drug taking in our public spaces,” policing minister Chris Philp said.

"Abuse of nitrous oxide is also dangerous to people's health and today we are sending a clear signal to young people that there are consequences for misusing drugs. Both users and dealers will face the full force of the law for their actions."

Waste crews who worked at the Notting Hill Carnival in August estimated they found around 13 tonnes of the drug canisters on the streets, amounting to around 12,000 cannisters, Kensington and Chelsea Council said.

"We welcome the announcement by the Government today that nitrous oxide is set to be banned under new Government legislation by November 8 but recognise that this must work hand in hand with a much broader education and harm-reduction strategy on drugs across the country,” Chief executive of Night-time Industries Association Michael Kill said.

"The burden on businesses has been substantial, as they've contended with mounting pressure from authorities and residents due to the proliferation of discarded silver canisters on the streets.

"This predicament has not only posed risks to the wellbeing of both staff and patrons but has also fostered an environment conducive to petty crime, antisocial behaviour and the activities of organised crime syndicates."