Nitrous oxide - no laughing matter

Posted on Friday 4th August 2017

nitrous pic

No Laughing Matter is the name of a campaign by Tower Hamlets Council, Tower Hamlets Homes and Tower Hamlets Police to help tackle some of the problems caused by nitrous oxide. It follows complaints from residents that antisocial behaviour linked to the taking of nitrous oxide, otherwise known as laughing gas, has become a significant concern – particularly on housing estates, inclusing THH estates, across the borough.

Residents have told us that it can be intimidating to see groups of people taking it, it causes noise nuisance and is also a litter problem because small metal canisters containing it are often left on the floor.

The police have also received reports of people taking it while behind the wheel of a car.

We have summarised the issues and reporting details in this leaflet.

As part of the campaign, the partners are: 

  • providing residents with ways to report discarded canisters so they can be collected
  • educating people about what the substance is and the risks to health
  • urging residents to report traders selling it for human consumption so they can be tackled by trading standards and the police.
  • talking to school children about the dangers of nitrous oxide

In addition, Tower Hamlets Council is paying for 14 new police officers to patrol the housing estates operated by Tower Hamlets Homes to reduce antisocial behaviour.

Susmita Sen, Chief Executive of Tower Hamlets Homes said:

“Drug abuse is a blight on our communities and its consequences are seen on many of our estates.

“Our residents frequently suffer noise nuisance, littering and intimidating behaviour by those groups who congregate to use nitrous oxide.

“We’ll work with our partners to tell residents about the dangers of this so-called legal high and we’ll also make it easier for our residents to report littering, where these canisters have been dumped.

“Hopefully the extra police resource, soon to be deployed on our estates, will also act as a deterrent to perpetrators of all types of ASB and offer reassurance to the local community.”

John Biggs, Mayor of Tower Hamlets added:

Nitrous oxide has become a significant concern for our residents and across London. It is linked to a variety of antisocial behaviour and we need to do what we can to help.

“No Laughing Matter sets out our commitment with the police and Tower Hamlets Homes to educate people about what it is and its dangers, take action against those selling the gas and clean up the mess it leaves behind.

“By working with residents, traders and our partners, we can be safer together.”

Councillor Asma Begum, cabinet member for community safety added:

“We will work closely with the police to close down outlets where we know they are selling Nitrous Oxide to our young people.   

“I want to reassure residents that the canisters that are left on the streets by drug users are unsightly but harmless. We will be stepping up our street cleaning work to remove them as quickly as possible.”

Sue Williams, Borough Commander said:

“The police are working together with partners to tackle this issue which we know is of concern for communities and residents.

“We will be educating young people as to the harmful effects and we will tackle those outlets that sell nitrous oxide taking appropriate enforcement action and drivers who use nitrous oxide whilst driving will be prosecuted for being unfit.

“This could mean disqualification and points/fine. So be warned!”

The Facts

Although the gas was previously a ‘legal high’ it is now illegal to supply or import nitrous oxide for personal use.

Nitrous oxide is used as pain relief during medical procedures such as dental work. It can also be legally bought for use in whipped cream dispensers.

Nitrous oxide can cause dizziness and affect the taker’s judgement. This can put people at risk of hurting themselves. Further research is taking place into long-term effects, with some health conditions and deaths linked to its use.

Who to call

  • To report discarded canisters as litter on THH estates call 020 73645015.
  • To report a trader selling nitrous oxide for human consumption email
  • To report discarded canisters in Tower Hamlets streets (not in estates) call 020 73645004.



Posted on Friday 4th August 2017