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Laughing gas ban won’t come into effect before 2023: minister

Photo: Hanneke Sanou

A ban on the sale of laughing gas, or nitrous oxide, to the public will not come into effect before January 2023 at the earliest, and doctors and addiction experts are sounding the alarm, the Parool reported on Friday.

Ministers announced they planned to include laughing gas in the opium law at the end of 2019 in an effort to stop the recreational use of the drug. But the draft legislation will only be voted on by MPs later this month and must then be assessed by the Council of State – a process which needs some eight months, the paper said.

Cardiologist Robert Riezebos, from the OLVG hospital group in Amsterdam, told the paper the ban should come into effect as soon as possible.

‘We have seen 20 young patients in the past few years with major health issues, including heart attacks and lung embolisms,’ he said. ‘We are talking about people in their 20s. One young woman had to have her leg amputated.’

The Trimbos Institute, which specializes in addiction, supports the call for faster action. ‘Because laughing gas is legal, many young people think it is harmless,’ spokeswoman Martha de Jonge said.

According to the institute’s own research, one in 50 adults used laughing gas in 2020, as did one in 13 college students. And police figures show laughing gas had a role in 1,800 traffic accidents in the past three years, including 63 that were fatal.

In the meantime, around half of the Netherlands’ local authorities, including Amsterdam, have introduced bylaws banning the use of the gas in public, the Parool said.

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