Possession of laughing gas with the intent of getting high has been made illegal, with repeat offenders facing up to two years in jail.
Dealers who peddle nitrous oxide – nicknamed “hippy crack” – could face up to 14 years behind bars.
The ban, promised as part of the Government’s anti-social behaviour action plan, makes nitrous oxide a Class C drug under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.
This means possession of nitrous oxide, where a person intends to wrongfully inhale it for a psychoactive effect, is now an offence.
Consequences could include an unlimited fine, community sentences or, for repeat serious offenders, a prison term.
But it will still be possible to use the gas for legitimate reasons, such as catering, pain relief during labour or in model rockets.
Licences will not be required to carry nitrous oxide, but users will need to demonstrate they are lawfully in possession of the gas and not intending to wrongfully inhale it.
The UK’s crime and policing minister Chris Philp said: “Today we are sending a clear signal to people, especially young people, that not only is abuse of nitrous oxide dangerous to their health, but it is also illegal and those caught possessing it will face consequences.”
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The classification of ‘controlled drugs’ in the United Kingdom is reserved to the UK Government under the Misuse of Drugs Act. Any changes made to the classification of substances, including nitrous oxide, will affect Scotland too.
“Upon the implementation of the classification of nitrous oxide as a Class C drug, Police Scotland will work with colleagues in UK policing to make sure the law is applied consistently across the UK.”
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