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Whitechapel shop loses licence over claims it sold laughing gas to customers

PUBLISHED: 07:00 19 September 2019

The 24/7 Off Licence was stripped of its licence by Tower Hamlets Council. Picture: Tower Hamlets Trading Standards

The 24/7 Off Licence was stripped of its licence by Tower Hamlets Council. Picture: Tower Hamlets Trading Standards

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A shop accused of keeping hundreds of laughing gas canisters in a safe to sell as a psychoactive drug to customers has been stripped of its licence in a council crackdown on so-called "hippy crack".

The laughing gas canisters in the shop safe. Picture: Tower Hamlets Trading StandardsThe laughing gas canisters in the shop safe. Picture: Tower Hamlets Trading Standards

Police raided the 24/7 Off Licence in Whitechapel after a tip-off that young people were allegedly buying the nitrous oxide canisters there and inhaling the gas from balloons outside.

In a report to Tower Hamlets' licensing committee police said they found 255 laughing gas canisters, the majority concealed in a safe under the till, chargers and balloons during the raid in April.

It has been illegal to sell or import nitrous oxide for its psychoactive effects since 2016.

Kevin Maple from Tower Hamlets Trading Standards said: "[We] have received a complaint about the premise from a resident. The complaint states that: 'Residents are fed up with scores of people parking cars up and taking these canisters'."

He added that some people have reported being verbally abused by groups allegedly buying laughing gas from the shop.

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The newsagent is one of several in the borough to face police raids and the loss of its licence since Tower Hamlets council launched its No Laughing Matter campaign two years ago.

Last year Tanim Superstore in Limehouse was stripped of its licence and closed down after it was accused of selling the gas to children as young as 14 and having 13,500 canisters in the shop during a police raid.

The council cleared 1.2 million of the silver nitrous oxide canisters off its streets in its first six months.

Staff have also been going into schools to teach children about the dangers of inhaling the gas and encouraging residents to report shops suspected of selling it.

Inhaling laughing gas caused 25 fatalities between 2010 and 2016, the latest Office of National Statistics figures show.

The drug can constrict the throat and damage the lungs, researchers have found.

Police asked the council's licensing committee to revoke 24/7 Off Licence's licence to sell alcohol at the meeting on Tuesday night, September 17.

A shop spokesman told the committee: "The police used the term 'hidden'. This is not appropriate. The safe was locked and only the manager had the key. The canisters were for his own personal use. We do not sell them to customers."

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