Gov't to ban recreational use of laughing gas

Woman selling laughing gas in Amsterdam
Woman selling laughing gas in AmsterdamPhoto: Phototraveller/DepositPhotos

The government is adding laughing gas or nitrous oxide to list II of the Opium Act, thereby banning the recreational use thereof and limiting the sale to consumers, according to a legislative proposal submitted by State Secretary Paul Blokhuis of Public Health and Minister Ferdinand Grapperhaus of Justice and Security. The use of laughing gas in healthcare, the technical industry, and the catering industry are exempted from the ban.

"Laughing gas is being used more and more often as drugs, especially by young people. With great risks for their own health, but also for others, for example in traffic," Blokhuis said, referring to fatal accidents in Eindhoven in March and Rotterdam in May in which laughing gas was believed to be involved. It is also believed that a young driver used laughing gas before he crashed into a terrace in Gennep last week, injuring six people. "It must be made clear once and for all that this is a very harmful substance, which is not for recreational use."

"At the same time, I want to ensure that sectors where nitrous oxide is used as intended, such as the car industry and confectioners, are not affected," Blokhuis said. The ban was therefore drawn up in consultation with these sectors, so that their daily activities remain largely unaffected. They will not have to apply for an exemption or permit to buy nitrous oxide, but limits were set for how much they can buy at a time. For example, wholesalers can only sell whipped cream gas cartridges to specific types of companies, and no more than 5 boxes of a maximum of 50 ampoules at a time. And only as part of a normal purchasing pattern. Reselling laughing gas is banned in all cases. The use of nitrous oxide as medicine is also excluded from the ban. 

According to Blokhuis, consumers have very few legitimate uses for laughing gas and they will therefore only be allowed to buy the gas in ampoules and with the aim of making whipped cream. These ampoules can only be sold to consumers over the age of 18 and in quantities of no more than 1 pack of up to 10 ampoules, and only if the store workers find it reasonable that the laughing gas is being bought to prepare food with. Consumers will not be able to by nitrous oxide in gas cylinders at all.