More than 1,100 laughing gas canisters seized from shops in two day operation

The evidence... laughing gas cannisters littering streets in Whitechapel

Laughing gas canisters similar to these were seized during a council operation - Credit: Mike Brooke

More than 1,100 nitrous oxide canisters were seized in just two days during an operation in Tower Hamlets.

It is illegal to sell nitrous oxide, known as laughing gas, for recreational use and Tower Hamlets Council's action targeted shops believed to be doing so.

A trader at one premises denied selling nitrous oxide canisters following a test purchase, the authority said, but council officers uncovered a hidden compartment. 

The substance can be sold legally for medical and commercial use, such as in whipped cream canisters.

The council's operation, which took place this month, also saw 29 1.4kg nitrous oxide cylinders seized as well as 8,690 illicit cigarettes and 3,330 grams of illicit hand rolling tobacco from eight premises.

Tower Hamlets mayor John Biggs said: “Selling illicit tobacco and nitrous oxide for recreational use is a serious offence.  

“We know that often these retailers are selling to young and sometimes underage residents which can lead to nicotine addiction. 

Most Read

“Nitrous oxide use is also linked to an increase in antisocial behaviour and the canisters are a blight on our streets. 

“This has been a hugely successful operation and it’s great news these products are no longer available to cause harm.”

The council recently relaunched it's No Laughing Matter campaign, which sees it partner with police and housing associations to tackle antisocial behaviour associated with nitrous oxide use.

Mayor John Biggs... providing help 'where it is needed most'

Borough mayor John Biggs hailed the operation as a "huge success" - Credit: Mike Brooke

It also raises awareness of health concerns and other associated harms from the substance's misuse.

A public space protection order (PSPO) was introduced by the council in May, providing the power to fine or prosecute those caught engaging in antisocial behaviour and in possession of nitrous oxide.

The move followed a consultation in which 98 per cent of people who responded were in favour of the PSPO.

The council's latest action involved its trading standards team, enforcement officers and a detection dog.

Cllr Sirajul Islam, cabinet member for community safety, said: “We want to tackle antisocial behaviour associated with nitrous oxide use and operations like this are vital in helping us disrupt supply in our borough. 

“I hope these seizures will act as a deterrent to any retailers who think they are above the law by illegally selling illicit tobacco and nitrous oxide for recreational use."

To report antisocial behaviour or littered canisters, visit the council's website