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Council told to rid communities of ‘laughing gas’ in Leeds

Leeds city council has been urged to do more to help rid communities of ‘laughing gas’, writes Richard Beecham.

A committee of councillors is set to decide whether to hear evidence about the issue of nitrous oxide – also known as ‘laughing gas’ – and how widespread usage of the drug is in the city.

A letter sent by Conservative councillor Matthew Robinson claimed the council should “do more” to help rid communities of nitrous oxide usage, and make sure young people know the dangers of the drug.

The letter, addressed to Leeds City Council’s environment scrutiny board chair Coun Barry Anderson, read:

“I am writing to ask your committee to look into the use and abuse of nitrous oxide (laughing gas) in our communities.”

He added a petition, which at the time of writing has just over 5,000 signatures, is calling for the issue to be discussed in Parliament.

Coun Robinson said:

“There is no doubt the council can do more to support the police, help users, educate people, tackle the health problems and work to eradicate the empty canisters we find left all over our neighbours (sic).

“I hope (the) scrutiny board will look into this matter and work with our local Police to help address this blight on our communities.”

The letter was sent as part of a request for the committee to hear evidence and make recommendations on the issue, known as a “call-in”. Councillors on the committee will debate and ultimately decide whether to look into the issue further, which could include an inquiry into the issue.

Nitrous Oxide, also known as laughing gas or NOX, is a colourless gas that is traditionally used for sedation or pain relief. However, in recent years, it has also been used as an illegal recreational high.

Although it is mostly found in pressurised canisters – often seen discarded on pavements – inhaling directly from the canister is extremely dangerous, and is often transferred to a balloon before being taken.

Users often experience fits of laughter or hallucinations when taking nitrous oxide, but many also complain of severe headaches, dizziness and paranoia.

Long-term use can also lead to severe vitamin deficiencies, nerve damage and can even stop the body forming white blood cells properly.

Nitrous oxide is classified as a psychoactive drug, meaning it is illegal to give away or sell. Supply and production can lead to up to seven years in prison.

The call-in follows a number of complaints from around Leeds in recent months about discarded laughing gas canisters, which led to West Yorkshire Police East to put out a statement about the issue back in June.

It read:

“A number of reports and evidence of use has been highlighted in the communities we serve and we would like to highlight that there is a number of health risks to those who may be involved in the use of Nitrous Oxide, including: loss of consciousness, possible suffocation, Vitamin B12 deficiency (a form of anaemia) and it increases risks from other drugs and intoxicants like alcohol.

“If you know of anyone that is involved with Nitrous Oxide make sure they know about the health risks and law regarding the use and supply.”

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