Shropshire Star

'Education, not criminalisation': Laughing gas campaigner slams government plans to ban drug

A campaigner has slammed government plans to criminalise people using laughing gas.

Nitrous oxide is also known as laughing gas

Newport councillor Thomas Janke has kicked back at government plans to make possession of laughing gas a criminal offence.

There will also be tighter rules for retailers to prevent the supply of nitrous oxide.

It is already illegal to produce, supply or import the gas for its use as a drug, under the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016. Possession is not currently illegal.

Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove said the “scourge” of nitrous oxide is turning public spaces into 'drug-taking arenas' and is helping fuel anti-social behaviour.

The plan comes despite an assessment by the independent Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs that concluded an outright ban would be disproportional given the level of harm associated with the drug.

Councillor Thomas Janke said tackling substance misuse should be done by 'educating people not criminalising them'

Newport Councillor Thomas Janke led a campaign in 2018 to raise awareness of the dangers of laughing gas.

After six months of work, educating and increasing patrols in the area, police in the town reported a "dramatic" reduction in the use of nitrous oxide.

Now, Councillor Janke said: "The proposed law amounts to nothing more than a hollow gesture from this government.

"Tackling substance misuse, including nitrous oxide, is done by educating people not criminalising them.

"Not least that there are nowhere near enough police resources to tackle those involved in inappropriate nitrous oxide consumption.

"We need our police officers out there addressing serious crime, not acting as a sticking plaster for a problem then is rooted in a lack of children services and education."

Councillor Janke has called for more education highlighting the dangers of using the drug, alongside better mental health services.

"If people were made more aware of the adverse effects of consuming nitrous oxide, I’m convinced less people would be tempted to risk consumption," he added.