The Police and Crime Commissioner for Surrey David Munro has called on the Home Office to consider urgent action in tackling the increased recreational use of Nitrous Oxide.
The PCC said the canisters, known as ‘laughing gas’, are too easy to get hold of and their personal use amongst young people is becoming a growing concern in Surrey.
Although the supply of Nitrous Oxide for psychoactive purposes is illegal – it is readily available for legitimate in medicine, baking or for aerosols and can be easily bought online or in party shops.
The PCC wrote to the Policing Minister Kit Malthouse earlier this month asking the Home Office to consider learning from recent legislation changes on other psychoactive substances in considering the course of action to take on Nitrous Oxide.
He cited rising concerns at the effects on the health and behaviour of young people inhaling the gas and the negative impact on local residents as reasons why attention needed to be given to the issue.
The Policing Minister has responded to the letter saying the government taking active steps to address the issue and outlining the current law and guidance provided to retailers to pay particular attention to the potential for abuse by customers. This includes the need to protect the safety of young people and vulnerable groups.
PCC David Munro said: “I speak to residents on a regular basis across the county and I am all too often hearing that the use of Nitrous Oxide is causing real concern in a number of areas.
“Local council officers are regularly having to clear up large numbers of canisters from local parks and their clear use by groups of young people is having a negative impact on some of our local communities.
“Whilst police teams are working to take proportionate action to respond to any reports of associated anti-social behaviour – they are very limited around what they can do around this issue.
“These canisters can be easily and cheaply bought online or from some shops so preventing them from being shared and used is extremely difficult. To test this, I myself went online and was able to purchase some to be delivered to my home address with no checks whatsoever.
“I believe this is an increasing problem which needs to be addressed to alert people to the potential health dangers of this practice and to ensure that these canisters are much harder for young people to access.”