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Calls for government to bring in tighter restrictions for nitrous oxide use

Cllr and NOX

The fight against nitrous oxide is being taken to government by a Tower Hamlets Council cabinet member.

Nitrous oxide, commonly known as laughing gas or NOX, is a psychoactive substance which can have lasting health issues for those who inhale it, including B12 deficiency, paralysis, and death. The silver canisters it comes in are also an environmental nuisance as they are left discarded throughout the borough. NOX is also often associated with anti-social behaviour.

Nitrous oxide is one of the most commonly used drugs among 16-24 year olds in England, according to recent studies.

Cllr Ohid Ahmed, Cabinet Member for Safer Communities, has been vocal about campaigning for stricter legislation since he took responsibility as cabinet member. He has now written to Suella Braverman, Home Secretary, calling on her to commit to a tough stance on NOX use.

Cllr Ahmed was pleased to see reports a month after his letter that the government is looking at banning the sale of NOX in England and Wales.

In the letter he writes: “[NOX] is a particular risk to young people and locally, the paediatric team at the Royal London Hospital have identified 30 such cases over the last 12 months.

“When taken with increasing use of NOX amongst young people, the shifting understanding of these health harms should be a cause of concern and a call to action.

“Considering the prevalence of abuse of nitrous oxide, its impact on the wider community and potential health harm to young people, we would ask that you continue to press for the ACMD to conduct an updated assessment of the impacts of NOX and whether it should be controlled under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.

“It is the firm belief of Tower Hamlets Council that a stronger stance on NOX use will help to deter users and it is necessary to address the brazen sale and use of NOX that blights our streets.”

Tower Hamlets Council has joined forces with the local police to tackle the issue and recently seized more than 1,000 canisters from local shops in just two days. The Tower Hamlets Enforcement Officers (THEOs) regularly respond to complaints from residents about NOX and carry out seizures of NOX from people and vehicles.

The council has also introduced a borough-wide Public Space Protection Order ig, meaning people using it in public places can be fined.

However, the council, along with the Local Government Association, is calling for the government to take more action over the selling and use of NOX.

Cllr Ahmed added: “Tower Hamlets Council will continue to seize NOX, fine those selling or using it in Tower Hamlets, and petition the government to bring in tighter restrictions.”

Posted on Friday 3rd February 2023