Earlier this year, the Crawley Borough Council Conservative group of councillors, brought forward a motion to the February Full Council meeting, seeking support for the sale and possession of Nitrous Oxide cannisters to be made illegal, with the exception of proven legitimate purposes. With anti-social behaviour being a concern that many residents raise with us, we felt this was one thing we could do to help tackle it.
We were pleased to get whole-council support and subsequently have the council make representations to the government. As far as I am aware, we were the first local authority to lobby for stronger laws on Nitrous Oxide canisters.
We did this as Nitrous Oxide has widely become an increasingly used drug among younger people. As well as this drug causing long-term health problems which ultimately adds to pressure on the NHS, the taking of this drug is widely associated with anti-social behaviour while under its influence, and the users of this drug tend to be the people who care least about the community and the environment, routinely leaving their canisters littered around. Sadly, you don’t have to look too far in Crawley to find these small silver-looking canisters littered around, but the larger canisters can also be found, which are known to cause more instant serious health consequences.
An indication of how prevalent they have become was found after the Notting Hill Carnival at the end of August, when waste crews in London who were carrying out the clean-up, estimated that they collected 13 tonnes of laughing gas canisters from the streets. They collected five full skips, an estimate of more than 12,000 canisters. A littering menace, they have to be collected separately to other waste as there is a risk they could explode if compacted.
Following our action, it’s good to see that last week the Conservative government pledged to categorise laughing gas as a class C drug and to make it illegal by the end of this year. This legislation has been welcomed by our Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne, alongside other positive measures to reduce anti-social behaviour.
Councillor Duncan Crow, Leader of Crawley Borough Conservative Group
13th September 2023