‘I think a ban is something we also need to start looking at here in Ireland to address the growing use of laughing gas among Irish young people’
Deputy Emer Higgins has voiced her support for a ban on laughing gas - formally known as nitrous oxide – amid concerns it poses risks to health and road safety.
Dutch authorities are to introduce a ban in January after its use was linked to more than 60 fatal road accidents there in the past few years.
Dutch cardiologists have also reported seeing several cases of heart attacks and pulmonary embolisms in users.
The gas - inhaled from a balloon filled by a cylinder - is used as a form of pain relief but its recreational use has grown in recent years.
“I think a ban is something we also need to start looking at here in Ireland to address the growing use of laughing gas among Irish young people and the potential damage it can do,” said Higgins, Fine Gael TD for Dublin Mid West.
“I often get complaints from constituents about the littering of these tiny silver canisters around local streets and parks.
“While litter is a legitimate concern, beyond that, there can also be a very sinister side to the use of laughing gas.”
She cited research from the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) which found that one in four Irish people had used laughing gas before.
Some 5.5% of the 18-24 age group in Ireland said that they had used it in the last 12 months.
“The number of people hospitalised due to nitrous oxide use doubled to 10 people in 2021, compared with the previous year, with possible side effects ranging from dizziness to vitamin B12 depletion, memory loss, long-term nerve damage in the body or even asphyxiation,” added Higgins. “We need to get ahead of this before it becomes an even bigger problem.”
Deputy Higgins previously raised the issue this time last year when the seizure of 59,000 canisters of nitrous oxide, also known as ‘Hippy Crack’ worth €1.9m, brought the total amount of canisters seized in 2021 to almost 140,000.