THERE have been renewed calls for tougher restrictions on the sale of laughing gas in Bradford.

Nitrous Oxide (N2O), which is also known as ‘laughing gas’ and 'nitty', is a gas commonly used in the medical and catering industry but is increasingly being used as a recreational drug.

Campaigner Sofia Buncy started mapping usage of the so-called ‘hippy crack’ alongside youth worker Sharat Hussain in June last year after the easing of restrictions and outdoor parties led to a rise in substance abuse.

It has become the second most commonly used substance among 16 to 24-year-olds in England.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics show that in 2019, half a million young people had used N20. And in 12 per cent of substance-related deaths that year, nitrogen or nitrous oxide was mentioned on the death certificate.

Mrs Buncy, who works at the Khidmat Centre, said the only solution to the issue is “control” at the point of sale.

Mrs Buncy told the Telegraph & Argus: “There needs to be tighter restrictions at the point of sale and the reason for that is because the police have limited and restricted laws to be able to control this. It has to come from a point of sale.

“One of the concerns I’ve got is Summer’s round the corner. We know once lockdown lifts the beach parties, the festivals, people are in the party culture. They will be looking to use anything that facilitates them having a good time. There will be a peak in usage.

“We will see the ramifications of that as we did last year. We saw the excessive littering of the silver canisters.

"People widely underestimate the damaging effect that nitrous oxide can have."

Sofia is working alongside the police, communities and youth groups to allow people to ask important questions about the party drug.

Young people from Bradford are also working on a short film, designed to look at how the drug has become to widely used and how it has affected their lives.

Last year, Mrs Buncy described N2O abuse "a side effect of the pandemic", recalling several occasions where police were called to deal with groups of high teenagers in the BD7 area.

The problem is seen across the Bradford district with people of all ages tempted by the potentially life-threatening high. It comes as Robbie Moore MP (Keighley, Cons) and the National trade body, British Compressed Gases Association, sent calls to the Government for stricter regulation that would see a ban on consumer sales. The MP said he has raised the issue “at all levels of Government”.

Inspector Kevin Taylor, of the Stronger Communities and Partnerships Team in Bradford, said: “We are working closely with a number of organisations to help raise awareness about the dangers of young people using Nitrous Oxide. We will be working with Safer Schools officers to help deliver messaging on this to schools across Bradford. Our NPT teams and our Engagement Officer regularly meet with youth groups and recently met with the Youth IAG.

“Nitrous Oxide, which is also known as ‘laughing gas’, is a gas commonly used in the medical and catering industry but is increasingly being used as a recreational drug.

“The consequences of taking this substance can be deadly and can lead to dizziness, headaches and even suffocation from a lack of oxygen, inhalation of too much can cause an individual to become unconscious. Directly inhaling Nitrous Oxide is dangerous and there is a real risk of serious health complications or death.

“It is also a controlled drug under the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016 – which makes it an offence to supply the drug onto another, passing friends a nitrous oxide canister or balloon filled with the gas is still a supply and they could face a criminal record in doing so.”