Don’t laugh, this is serious, says Hackney council

Laughing gas: Sat a.m. in Shoreditch 151114 © David Altheer

THE legal high of nitrous oxide is no laughing matter, say Hackney council and the police, who seized 1,200 canisters of so-called laughing gas during a night in Shoreditch last Saturday. (Don’t be silly: the cops were working.)

The canisters are used to fill balloons, which are sold for up to £5. Users then inhale the gas for a short rush. But the funny stuff starves the brain of oxygen, making users light-headed and briefly disorienting them.

Last month a Londoner drowned after inhaling the gas at a festival. A 21-year-old chef died in February 2014, after inhaling nitrous oxide soon when he learnt he was to become a father.

The Home Office estimates that 350,000 people aged 16 to 24 used laughing gas last year.

Inhaling it is not illegal. But Hackney council is combating sale of the gas by using a section of the London Local Authorities Act that allows local authorities to act against unauthorised street trading.

The items  seized last weekend would, the council thinks, have returned £6,000 for the offenders. Instead, nine people will be fined £150 for unauthorised street trading.

One person will be prosecuted and could face a fine of £1,000. Others will be fined £80 for littering.

Feryal Demirci, neighbourhoods councillor, said: “We want to send a message to the thoughtless peddlers of this dangerous gas… we will take action to remove them.”

Well said. As the Bee Gees sang in a curiously high falsetto, Stayin alive is a good aim.

Hamish Scott 250713

* Main pic: laughing-gas remnants of a Saturday night in Shoreditch © David Altheer

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