John Biggs, Mayor of Tower Hamlets today wrote to the Home Secretary in a bid to change laws allowing Nitrous Oxide (N2O) to be bought “cheaply and easily online and on the high street” because “current legislation is simply not up to the job.”
The move follows the council’s rollout of a No Laughing Matter campaign, which aimed to tackle anti-social behaviour and littering caused by people taking N2O, also known as Laughing Gas.
“Nitrous Oxide canisters are associated with anti-social behaviour, are an eyesore when left on our streets and are difficult to recycle” wrote the Mayor to the Home Secretary Sajid Javid MP.
He continued: “Even though the council’s street cleaning team regularly targets areas where N2O is used to clean up the canisters, their presence as litter acts a very visual sign of illicit use and creates a sense of insecurity.”
In 2017, Tower Hamlets Council paid for 14 new police officers to patrol the housing estates to tackle crime and anti-social behaviour, including poor behaviour from groups taking N2O.
A further £3m has been invested to recruit more police officers to patrol the streets across the borough.
Despite cuts to the public purse, Tower Hamlets Council is also one of the highest spenders on youth services in London and it invests in positive activities, training and employment opportunities for young people.
“This had some valuable impact but our community tells us more action is needed,” the Mayor wrote, adding:
“Can you outline what impact the current legislation has had since its introduction in 2016? Can further research be done on the health impacts and what further steps will you be taking to tackle this problem?”
Although the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016 makes it illegal to supply or import nitrous oxide for consumption, it is difficult to prove at the point of supply that people intend to use it for that purpose.
Nitrous Oxide can cause dizziness and affect the taker’s judgement. This can put people at risk of hurting themselves.
Further research is taking place into its long-term effects, with some health conditions and deaths linked to its use.