Laughing gas ban 'completely disproportionate to the harms'

Prolonged use of nitrous oxide can cause vitamin B12 deficiency, anaemia and nerve damage

Laughing gas will be banned from sale in an effort to crack down on anti-social behaviour, the Government has announced.

Nitrous oxide is typically released into balloons from small silver canisters and then inhaled.

Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove said: "I think any of us who have had the opportunity to walk through our parks in our major cities will have seen these little silver canisters which are examples of people not only despoiling public spaces but also taking a drug which can have a psychological and neurological affect and contribute to anti-social behaviour.”

Prolonged use of nitrous oxide can cause vitamin B12 deficiency, anaemia and nerve damage. But David Badcock, chief executive of The Drug Science Scientific Committee, said the Government was overreacting.

"A blanket ban on nitrous oxide is completely disproportionate to the harms that are caused by nitrous oxide and would likely deliver more harm than good," he said.

“The Government should concentrate on much more serious elements of drug policy that are causing harm, like alcohol for instance.

Mr Gove said silver canisters are examples of people "despoiling public spaces" Credit: Getty

“It’s the same old tired drug policy that the Government just continue to put out without looking at the evidence; the same old Government rhetoric on the war on drugs.

“It won’t stop young people using it, banning any substance just drives it into criminal hands and the inherent risks associated with the black market come into play, I don’t think it will stop people doing it.”

The proposed ban on laughing gas is part of Rishi Sunak's £160m crackdown on anti-social behaviour being unveiled on Monday. It will include trials of swifter justice measures and increased policing in areas of England and Wales deemed to have high amounts of low-level crime.

Drug testing of criminals will become more prevalent, on-the-spot fines for graffiti and fly-tipping will be increased and more money will be ploughed into youth centres as part of a bid to eradicate behaviours spoiling Britain's neighbourhoods.