We’ve all seen the little metal bottles and heard about the dangers of inhaling their contents, but until now, nitrous oxide, better known as laughing gas, has been a ‘legal high’.

In Lambeth this is no longer the case, as they have recently become the first council in the UK to ban the substance, citing dangerous use and mass-littering as its reasons. Now, anybody caught by police with a canister will face an on-the-spot fine. A poster campaign will make sure everybody gets the message: possession of the gas will no longer be a laughing matter.

What are the dangers of laughing gas? For the majority, the desired euphoria carries side-effects, such as dizziness and even fainting. The heart rate is slowed to dangerous levels, which carries the risk of cardiac arrest. And it really is a risk: between 2006 and 2012, there were 17 recorded fatalities linked to the substance.

Lambeth Council’s neighbourhoods chief, Jane Edbrooke, says: “Just because they’re called legal highs, it does not mean they’re good for your health.”

There is also the environmental consideration: After the 2014 Glastonbury Festival, two tons of discarded metal cylinders were recovered and many more are often littering the streets of our urban areas.

Will the government decide to criminalise the drug outright? This is unlikely, since the bottles are available legally for a variety of legitimate uses, such as in the making of ice cream. But other councils may yet follow Lambeth’s lead.

Have you noticed the steady increase in nitrous oxide-related admissions to your hospital? Email us your insights on marketing@athona.com.

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