The municipality of Arnhem is the first in the Netherlands to initiate a blanket ban on the sale of laughing gas. While selling laughing gas on the street was already prohibited in Arnhem, NOS reports the city has now also banned the sale of laughing gas from catering establishments.
Laughing gas – known formally as nitrous oxide – is a colorless gas classified as a ‘dissociative anesthetic’ which when inhaled recreationally produces a brief feeling of euphoria. According to the Alcohol and Drug Foundation, risks of laughing gas use include loss of blood pressure, fainting, heart attack, memory loss, weakened immune system, psychosis, and sudden death.
Arnhem Mayor Ahmed Marcouch told NOS, “I am very concerned about the use of laughing gas by our Arnhem youth…Young people whose brains are still developing and laughing gas do not mix.”
In addition to individual health risks, the recreational use of laughing gas also damages the environment as typical use involves discharging nitrous gas cartridges – such as bulbs or whippets – “into another object, such as a balloon, or directly into the mouth.” Recreational users often leave these cartridges and balloons littered in the streets. Marcouch tells NOS that laughing gas causes “pollution and unacceptable risks for traffic and public order and safety.”
Currently Arnhem accommodates eight catering businesses which sell nitrous oxide. With the new ban, if these businesses do not cease laughing gas sales they may face penalties including the loss of their business license.
The municipality imposed the nitrous oxide ban through the Environmental Management Act. NOS reports, “According to this law, sellers are obliged to prevent or limit hazards to people or the environment.” Arnhem forwards that recreational laughing gas can be dangerous and therefore sellers violate the act.