Birmingham City Council ‘extremely worried’ at soaring use of laughing gas

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Birmingham City Council say police need to do more to crackdown on the drug

Chiefs say they are ‘extremely worried’ at the soaring use of laughing gas in Birmingham – but say police need to do more to crackdown on the harmful drug.

The council says it has “limited powers” to tackle the problem of nitrous oxide, which is illegal to use as a recreational drug, and police should take the lead.

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At a Birmingham City Council meeting on Wednesday, Labour councillor for Small Heath Sabina Bano said that people did not fully understand the harmful effects of the gas. Hospitalisations due to misuse of the gas have also risen.

Cllr Bano asked Cllr Phil Davis, chair of the licensing committee, if the council was doing anything to inform people, but he said its more of a police issue. The legal substance nitrous oxide is used in catering and by medics for pain relief. A consultant neurologist in Birmingham recently warned of the now weekly cases of ‘very rare’ nerve damage linked to the substance.

Laughing gas canistersLaughing gas canisters
Laughing gas canisters | stock image

Cllr Bano said: “At a recent police meeting, the misuse of nitrous oxide gas canisters was raised by many residents in my ward of Small Heath.

“We are seeing far too many canisters dumped on our highways, outside schools, and in parks. I am extremely worried users are not aware of the harmful effects and neurological problems associated with this gas.

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“What action, if any, is the council taking to publicise the harmful effects?”

In his response, Cllr Davis said he was “very much aware of this issue” and asked colleagues to keep him informed if they have examples of abuse of the drug in their wards.

However, he explained the difficulty in curbing access to nitrous oxide was due to the fact it is not age restricted and sales are usually online or under the counter.

He added that both the council and police had powers for enforcement, but the council sees it as primarily a police responsibility.

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He said: “We consider the police to be the lead agency as the issues that arise from laughing gas are potentially related to antisocial behaviour and drug dealing.

“However, the council is happy, resources allowing, to participate in any police-led taskforce or operation which would focus upon this particular problem and attempt to tackle it as an example of antisocial behaviour related to drug use.

“I have briefly spoken to colleagues about this and I’m pleased to say that Cllr Cotton has kindly agreed to raise the issue with the police and crime commissioner in one of his regular meetings. I’d be very happy to pass on information and indeed, contact the police and crime commissioner myself to see if we can get the police to be more proactive on this issue.

“We could then consider the issue of the council’s engagement in terms of public education and so on.”

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