Thu. Jun 13th, 2024

The ban will impact the recreational use of nitrous oxide, which will still be available for medical and culinary purposes.

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The Belgian government has announced it will officially ban the use of nitrous oxide, more commonly known as laughing gas, after a spike in the consumption of the substance among young people over the past few years.

While a ban on laughing gas was first proposed on a federal level one year ago, the substance remains freely available to this day. But, according to a statement from Minister of Justice Paul Van Tigchel and Minister of the Interior Annelies Verlinden on Thursday, the Belgian government will soon make the possession, transport and sale of nitrous oxide illegal in the country.

The use of nitrous oxide among young people on a night out in countries like the UK, Belgium and France has been on the rise in the past several years, partly because the drug is easily and available – and cheap. Once inhaled, the gas gives the user a temporary feeling of euphoria, relaxation, and a sense of detachment, the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction explain.

Last year, the Centre described the increase in the use of the substance as “alarming.” Images of dozens of empty canisters in cities like London and Brussels have made the rounds on social and news media.

“The government has decided to insert nitrous oxide into the drug law,” a statement from the cabinet mentioned by Belgian media reads. “Improper use will be prosecuted like cannabis,” a statement from the cabinet read.

The ban has the support of key ministers and it’s likely to be approved as a royal decree, a federal governmental decree signed by the king but approved by ministers. While it will ban the sales, import, possession, transport and purchase of nitrous oxide, the substance will remain available as a medical anaesthetic and in the food industry, where it’s often used in cream whippers.

Belgium is not the first country to move to ban laughing gas. The Netherlands imposed a ban at the beginning of the year, while the UK banned laughing gas for recreational use in early November. Nitrous oxide is now classified in the UK as a Class C drug, together with steroids and khat, a stimulant drug which is usually chewed like tobacco.

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