No laughing matter: new legislation will ban the sale of nitrous oxide

Photo: Hanneke Sanou
Photo: Hanneke Sanou

Junior health minister Paul Blokhuis has published his plans to severely ristrict the sale of laughing gas to consumers, six months after pledging to take action.

The government decided to intervene following several warnings about the impact of excessive use of the gas on health, which was described in a report by drugs assessment commission CAM last year as ‘average to large’.

Blokhuis plans to have the gas included in the opium law B list alongside cannabis and qat. Users will not face criminal charges but possession, trade, production and import of B list drugs are illegal.

‘Laughing gas is being used as a drug more often and in greater quantities,’ Blokhuis said. ‘This not only risks their own health, but that of others, particularly in traffic.’ There have been several recent serious road accidents in which laughing gas was involved.

The legislation, which includes exceptions for the use of nitrous oxide in whipped cream dispensers as part of ‘normal purchasing patterns’, has now been put out to public consultation.

Local bans

Several Dutch cities, including Arnhem and Amsterdam have already brought in bans under local bylaws or are considering doing so.

Last July information centre NVIC, where doctors report instances of poisoning, said it had received 67 reports about the use of laughing gas in the first six months of this year alone. Health problems linked to the use of laughing gas include tingling feelings in arms and legs, nausea, headaches and dizziness.

Research published earlier this year by the Trimbos institute shows that over 37% of Dutch party goers use laughing gas on a regular basis and that young adults are the most likely to do so.

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