Police chiefs say they hope new laws to make possession of nitrous oxide illegal will deter people from using it.
More commonly known as laughing gas, the substance was changed to a controlled Class C drug this week.
It means that anyone caught dealing it could face up to 14 years in prison, while repeat serious users could be jailed for up to two years.
Detective Chief Inspector Phillip Bryan, Staffordshire Police’s drugs lead, said:
“This legislation has been brought in as a matter of public health and safety. Heavy, regular abuse of laughing gas can lead to significant health risks, such as anaemia, nerve damage and paralysis.
“Being under the influence of nitrous oxide whilst behind the wheel is also highly dangerous, and could ultimately prove fatal for drivers, their passengers and other road users.
“I hope that this law change will discourage as many people as possible from misusing this substance.”Detective Chief Inspector Phillip Bryan, Staffordshire Police
The possession of laughing gas with the intention of inhaling it has also been made illegal.
Chief Constable Richard Lewis, National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for drugs, said:
“Tackling anti-social behaviour in communities is a key objective of the police service and any new laws or powers that assist in this regard are welcome.
“Policing will work with the government following their decision to make possession of nitrous oxide, without a legitimate reason, a criminal offence, as opposed to just supply and intent to supply.”Chief Constable Richard Lewis, National Police Chiefs’ Council