Priti Patel has announced a new crackdown on nitrous oxide, calling for a review into the effect of the drugs.
Popular amongst 16-24-year-olds, with more than 500,000 people from the age group reporting that they took the drug in 2019, nitrous oxide’s accessibility and cheap price make it incredibly popular amongst young people.
Read this next: Laughing gas sales are up by 400% in The Netherlands
Patel, speaking about the use of nitrous oxide, said that “tough action” would be taken on its usage, calling in the Independent Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs to investigate its effects.
This could lead to the criminalisation of nitrous oxide possession, allowing the substance to potentially fall into the same category as cannabis. nitrous oxide is widely available online due to being used for whipped cream production, though suppliers often warn that inhaling the gas is illegal, and under legislation created in 2016, supply of the substance for inhalation is illegal.
Many are opposed to the move from Patel, saying that it plays into wider patterns of unnecessarily punitive drug measures. Speaking about the new review, Burcu Borysik, head of policy at The Royal Society for Public Health said:
“The government’s insistence on criminalisation and incarceration for minor drug offences worsens problems linked to illicit drug use, including social inequality and violence,
Read this next: Bust to Boom: How drugs won the war on drugs
He continued: The heavy-handed enforcement approach to drugs does nothing but spread fear among young people, prevents them from seeking the support they need, and unnecessarily drags them into the criminal justice system.”
There are concerns that criminalisation could push large numbers of young people into the criminal justice system and hinder opportunities and employment, while the Home Office spoke of the “widespread littering” caused that can bring ‘misery to communities’.
“Misusing drugs can have a devastating impact on lives and communities. We are determined to do all we can to address this issue and protect the futures of our children and young people.” Patel said.
Read this next: Do you have to do drugs to enjoy dance music?
In 2015, Prof Leslie Iverson, who was the chair of the advisory committee at the time, said that possession of nitrous oxide should remain legal due to the lack of short-term side effects and the few deaths the drug caused.
[Via: The Guardian]Tope Olufemi is Mixmag’s Digital Intern, follow them on Twitter