Nitrous oxide, also known as laughing gas, is set to be categorised as a class C drug and be made illegal in the UK by the end of 2023, the UK government has confirmed.
Supply of nitrous oxide for creational use is currently banned, but possession is not.
The classification will mean those caught producing or selling nitrous oxide could face up to 14 years in prison, and being caught in possession could carry a sentence of up to two years.
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The government is pressing ahead with the ban, despite the Independent Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs advising against a ban, warning that punishment would be disproportionate to the harm caused by the substance.
Abuse of nitrous oxide has been linked to health problems including nerve and spinal damage.
A Home Office spokesperson said: “We are cleaning up our streets and tackling anti-social behaviour. Those in unlawful possession could face up to two years in prison or an unlimited fine.”
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Home secretary Suella Braverman, said in a statement: “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.”
Legitimate uses of nitrous oxide, such as in medicine or catering, will be exempt.
Read Tracy Kawalik’s in-depth report into why the UK is banning nitrous oxide here.