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Help ban the use of laughing gas (NOX) canisters in Tower Hamlets

Typical way NOX cannisters are discarded Pic: Andrew Wood
Typical way NOX cannisters are discarded Pic: Andrew Wood
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In 2015 Lambeth Council introduced a Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO for short) to ban the use and sale of laughing gas also known as NOX. They are the little silver canisters that you will find littering streets all over Tower Hamlets. The canisters also have a legal use in the food industry usually in whipped cream canisters so can be bought legally. They contain a gas nitrous oxide (NOX) which when inhaled usually via a balloon gives the user a short high.

Taking nitrous oxide can cause feelings of euphoria, relaxation and calmness, fits of giggles and laughter – hence the nickname ‘laughing gas’ and sound distortions and hallucinations. But they can also give you a severe headache, cause dizziness, stop you thinking straight and cause short-lived but intense feelings of paranoia according to the website Talk to Frank and can have other negative health impacts.

The reason why they are so many canisters is because users have to keep inhaling them to stay high. Why they don’t then pick them up and put them in a bin remains a mystery.

But six years after Lambeth and more than two years after Cllr Peter Golds and I introduced a Council motion asking that we follow Lambeth in introducing one, Tower Hamlets Council is now consulting on introducing a Public Spaces Protection Order which will ban their use, the order will state:

a) Person(s) within the Restricted Area will not:

Ingest, inhale, inject, smoke, possess or otherwise use psychoactive substances (e.g. nitrous oxide) and which is causing or likely to cause harassment, alarm, distress, nuisance or annoyance to members of the public.

that consultation ends Monday so please complete it online here.

It is not currently illegal to possess NOX canisters so if the Police turn up and see you using them they cannot do anything (unless you are driving at the same time as some NOX users do). But a PSPO gives the Police and Council enforcement officers the powers to order people to stop these activities and fine them a £100 for each offense which is why we need your help in responding to the consultation.

Public Space Protection Orders were introduced in 2014 by the government and they have to be consulted on first, can only last for three years at a time (but can be renewed) and must set specific rules for a specified local area. PSPO areas can cover a local park or in this case the whole Borough. We know the Police struggle to know where the two other PSPO areas are or what the rules are so they rarely use them, only a Borough wide PSPO is likely to be usable by the Police.

Tower Hamlets has the highest rates of anti-social behaviour (ASB) in London the Met Police recently confirmed and they are I believe also the highest rates in the country. We are now also the densest Borough in the country so ASB from NOX users often has a negative impact on our communities especially from the parties that NOX users have in areas close to people’s homes. If NOX users picked up their canisters and found quieter places to enjoy themselves then perhaps we would not need to do this. Please complete the consultation to help give the Police and Council officers more powers to deal with it.

Cllr Andrew Wood, Canary Wharf ward

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Written by Cllr Andrew Wood

I am the Councillor for Canary Wharf ward in the Borough of Tower Hamlets

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