HUNDREDS of so-called ‘Hippy Crack’ canisters photographed in the carpark of a discount supermarket have prompted calls for them to be banned – and for “unscrupulous” retailers to understand it is ‘illegal to knowingly sell them for misuse’.

Pictures of spent nitrous oxide canisters discarded widely in the carpark of the Lidl supermarket on West Richardson Street, in High Wycombe, drew criticism from councillors who suggested their sale should be stopped in case their abuse resulted in ‘death’.

Bucks Free Press:

The pictures, taken on November 23, show the “laughing gas” canisters scattered in large number in front of the supermarket beside empty boxes branded Cream Chargers.

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The sale of nitrous oxide to under-18s is illegal, according to the Intoxicating Substances (Supply) Act 1985.

The gas has widespread legitimate medical, dental and veterinary uses, according to the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD).

It is also legitimately sold as an aerosol spray propellant within whipped cream canisters.

Bucks Free Press:

However, its recreational misuse has increased rapidly. Home Office data for England and Wales suggests it is “the second most popular recreational drug after cannabis”.

Common effects include a brief period of euphoria, followed by “tears of joy”. In high doses it can cause asphyxiation, while lower exposure can affect the cardiovascular and central nervous system.

“I strongly condemn both the use of these canisters (which are dangerous when inhaled) which are used by young people to get high, and the littering they always cause after they have finished them and drive off,” said Wycombe Independent Cllr Darren Hayday.

“Unscrupulous local retailers can also decide to sell them under the counter, which is illegal if they suspect they will be inhaled and not used to make cream.

“The people who take these are normally aggressive when using them.

“Parents need to know just how dangerous these are, ask their children if they take them, and encourage them to stop before they potentially get very ill – or die.”

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Labour Cllr Khalil Ahmed added: “This has been a problem for a very long time and has been mentioned to the police by various councillors.

“As they are designed for kitchen-based applications, I am aware they can be purchased online. This suggests there needs to be a call by the MP to ban their sale to prevent abuse.”

Bucks Free Press:

“We have similar issues in other parts of the town and in my ward – Abbey,” said Conservative Cllr Lesley Clarke.

Labour Cllrs Majid Hussain, Mohammed Hanif, Sebert Graham and Mohammed Asif also called for them to be banned.

Back in July, Steve Baker MP highlighted the issue in the House of Commons: “I cannot help noticing that in Wycombe we see piles of these canisters at the roadside.”

He mentioned the risk to road users, adding Government should consider the “wider harms” abuse might cause.

“At some point, the Government must start thinking about how to help young people to be happy and not need laughing gas,” he said.

A spokesperson for Thames Valley Police said: “The canisters have now been cleared up and Lidl confirmed this is the first instance of this happening – additionally they do not sell the canisters themselves.”

Steve Baker MP said: "Sale of nitrous oxide to the public is already outlawed as it is treated as a ‘psychoactive substance’ under the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016Producing, supplying and importing/exporting psychoactive substances for human consumption is illegal. 

"Police have a range of powers to enforce the law, including stop and search, and obtaining a warrant to search premises for psychoactive substances. They can seize substances they find if they suspect they are drugs meant for recreational use.

"Local councils have a role in dealing with the littering which comes from the use of nitrous oxide, and can also introduce public space protection orders, although I appreciate this is not an easy or quick solution.

"Kevin Foster, a Home Officer Minister, said in the Adjournment debate on The Misuse of Nitrous Oxide in July 2020 he asked online retails to be careful about who they are selling to, and said the upcoming Online Harms Bill will address this issue specifically.  The Online Harms Bill is expected to come to Parliament in the next few months."

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