A crackdown on laughing gas could be “extremely helpful” in preventing the huge clean up associated with its use at London festivals, a London council said on Monday.
Five tonnes of nitrous oxide cannisters were collected after Notting Hill Carnival last year and waste crews described the unprecedented volume as “mind-blowing”.
Kensington and Chelsea council said the excessive number of metal cases make what is already Europe’s largest street clean-up more difficult because they must be collected separately as there is a risk they could explode if compacted.
A spokesman told the Standard it “could be extremely helpful if there are new powers” but the town hall would “need to look at the detail”.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak confirmed a ban on the sale of nitrous oxide, known as NOS, during a visit to Chelmsford, Essex on Monday morning.
He said the Government would tackle the “scourge” of drugs as part of a crackdown on anti-social behaviour.
The possession or sale of nitrous oxide for consumption is already an offence under the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016.
NOS will be labelled a class C drug, punishable by up to two years in prison and unlimited fines for possession and supply, plans published on Monday show.
The Home Office said the new rules, which the Government plans to introduce before the end of the year, will strengthen the existing laws and make it easier to prosecute those who supply the drug.
However the UK’s drug advisory panel has said NOS should not be subjected to extra controls and suggested harsher crackdowns could be disproportionate to the level of harm associated with the drug.
Policing minister Chris Philp defended the Government’s plans against the advice of official advisers.
He told Times Radio that they were taking action because use of nitrous oxide was becoming “extremely widespread”.
“There is some emerging evidence of physical medical harm. There have been some reports recently of paralysis being caused by large-scale use,” he said.
“And of course it does fuel this antisocial behaviour problem where people, typically younger people, congregate, sometimes in large groups, and consume nitrous oxide and then discard the canisters which sometimes adds to a sense of menace or unease for other members of the public who may be using a park or some public place.”