Police crackdown on laughing gas craze in Brick Lane

Pc Scott Manning in Brick Lane

Pc Scott Manning in Brick Lane - Credit: Archant

Clubbers who sell laughing gas to revellers around Brick Lane are being targeted by police in a crackdown against illegal street trading.

Nitrous oxide, which is pumped into balloons and sucked out by thrill-seekers to experience a temporary high, is not illegal - but officers say they are becoming increasingly concerned about the substance, which an interim coroner’s report blamed for the death of a teenager from Hampstead last year.

It’s not illegal to posses or supply the gas, which is sometimes used by dentists and doctors as an anaesthetic, so Tower Hamlets officers are using trading and licensing laws to prevent people selling it on the streets.

Pc Scott Manning, who regularly steps in as acting sergeant of the town centre team, said: “It’s quite a potent gas, and there have been cases where people have died from using it.

“We’ve actually witnessed people doing it in Brick Lane, and we’ve found evidence around the area, such as empty canisters and balloons.

“We’d like to see legislation brought in, but all we can do it stop people actively selling it in the street and we’ve targeted patrols around this. It’s good, because it’s our first hit back at the people who are selling it.”

One man has already been charged with illegal street trading and 120 canisters have been seized so far.

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Officers are working with Tower Hamlets Council’s enforcement officers and CCTV operatives to gather evidence, and it’s the authority which takes the offender to court for breaching trading laws.

“It’s a good partnership,” Pc Manning said, adding the town centre team of one sergeant and eight Pcs is set to be expanded this year.

“If we see people with balloons on them we will engage with them,” he said. “Most people don’t realise you could die from it.

“It seemed to be getting quite big around the Brick Lane area and we wanted to clamp down on it really hard. We’ve put a bit of a cap on it, and it’s not as bad down there now.”