Ministers are reportedly planning to ban the sale and possession of what is known as laughing gas as part of a bid to tackle antisocial behaviour.
The Times newspaper reports that under the proposals, drug misuse laws would be updated to allow people found with nitrous oxide gas in public to be prosecuted.
The paper said that under the changes, only those with a “legitimate reason” would be exempt. Examples given include chefs, who use it for whipped cream or freezing and chilling food.
The substance can also be used as pain relief during dental treatment or childbirth.
Current legislation bans the knowing or reckless supply of nitrous oxide for inhalation but there have been calls for a ban on all direct consumer sales as part of a tightening up of the law on the commonly used drug.
Policing minister Chris Philp is reportedly pushing for an ongoing review of nitrous oxide by the independent Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs to be fast-tracked to April, with suggestions that a formal announcement on a ban could be made as part of the Government’s antisocial behaviour strategy due later this year.
The Prime Minister addressed the issue in his new year’s speech earlier this month, hitting out at antisocial behaviour and highlighting the blight of discarded “nitrous oxide canisters in children’s playgrounds”.
The Home Office has been approached for comment on the reported changes.