In three weeks, the possession of Nitrous Oxide (laughing gas) will become illegal and repeat offenders will face up to two years in prison.
The distributors of nitrous oxide will face up to 14 years in prison, according to the Home Office. Nitrous oxide will become a controlled Class C substance under the Misuse of Drugs Act of 1971, when the prohibition goes into effect on November 8.
It is one of the most commonly used recreational substances among adolescents. This comes after MPs voted overwhelmingly to classify it as a class C substance last month, 404 to 36.
Critics have previously warned against a prohibition, stating that it could prevent drug users from seeking medical assistance, but the government says it is cracking down on antisocial behaviour and public drug use.
The drug, which is packaged in small metal canisters, is a colourless gas commonly used as a painkiller in medicine and dentistry, as well as for the production of whipped cream in cooking.
When inhaled as a recreational substance, it can induce feelings of relaxation, giddiness, lightheadedness, or vertigo.
The substance can cause migraines and anxiety or paranoia in some users, while excessive use can cause fainting or loss of consciousness. According to a government report that cites several scientific studies, intensive, frequent use can also lead to vitamin B12 deficiency, which can result in neurological damage.
The Home Office stated that penalties for possession of the substance may include an unlimited fine, community service, or a warning, and for "repeat serious offenders," a prison sentence of up to two years.
In addition, the utmost sentence for production or distribution of the drug for illegal purposes is fourteen years.
There will be exemptions for the use of nitrous oxide for legitimate purposes, such as in labour and delivery wards for pain relief and in the catering industry.
People will not be required to carry licences, but they will be required to show they are legally in possession of the substance and have no intention of using it for psychoactive effects.
The government states that legitimate suppliers of nitrous oxide must not be "reckless" about whether the substance is being purchased for illegal purposes, adding, "turning a blind eye is an offence."
Chris Philp, the minister of crime and policing, declared, "We are upholding our promise to adopt a zero-tolerance policy regarding antisocial behavior and flagrant drug use in our public spaces."
He mentioned that abuse of nitrous oxide is also harmful to people's health and today they are sending a clear message to young people that substance abuse has consequences.
Users and traffickers will be held accountable to the full extent of the law.
Michael Kill, CEO of the Night-time Industries Association, commended the prohibition but stated that it must be accompanied by a comprehensive drug education and harm reduction strategy.
Due to the proliferation of silver canisters polluting the streets, businesses have had to deal with increasing pressure from authorities and residents, resulting in a significant burden.
This predicament has not only posed risks to the safety of both employees and customers, but it has also fostered an atmosphere conducive to petty crime, antisocial behaviour, and the activities of organised crime syndicates.