Hackney Council and Police target peddlers of potentially lethal ‘laughing gas’

Hackney Council and the local police are warning sellers of the potentially lethal ‘legal high’ nitrous oxide they won’t be tolerated on its streets.

More than 1,200 canisters of the chemical, known as laughing gas, were seized in just one night outside the pubs and clubs of Shoreditch recently. The canisters are used to fill balloons which are then sold for up to £5 to users who inhale the gas for a short rush. The substance starves the brain of oxygen, making users light-headed and disoriented for a few minutes.

There has been increasing concern over the growing popularity of nitrous oxide across the country. Earlier this month a Londoner drowned after inhaling the gas at a festival in France before going for a swim. In February, a 21-year-old chef died after inhaling nitrous oxide shortly after hearing he was to become a father. In 2012, a 17-year-old student from North London died after suffering a heart attack and brain damage after inhaling what was being sold as ‘laughing gas’, but which actually contained other lethal gases.

Inhaling nitrous oxide is not illegal. However, Hackney Council is combating its sale by using Section 38 of the London Local Authorities Act 1990, which allows local authorities to enforce against unauthorised street trading. As well has having their canisters seized, nine people will be fined £150 for unauthorised street trading and several of them will also be fined £80 for littering. If they do not pay their fixed penalty notices, they will be prosecuted and could face a fine of £1,000. The seized items would have brought in about £6,000 for the offenders.

Councillor Feryal Demirci, Cabinet Member for Neighbourhoods
This so-called legal high can be extremely dangerous - not only does it put people at risk, it promotes anti-social behaviour. The empty balloons and nitrous oxide canisters also create a lot of litter in Shoreditch and Dalston, which is frustrating for residents, local traders and shoppers. It also costs taxpayers’ money to clean up. We want to send a message out to the thoughtless peddlers of this dangerous gas – they’re not welcome on the streets of Hackney and we will take action to remove them.
Councillor Feryal Demirci, Cabinet Member for Neighbourhoods