Belgium wants to ban selling laughing gas to minors

Belgium wants to ban selling laughing gas to minors
Capsules containing nitrous oxide, or laughing gas. © Flickr Cpmmons

A bill banning the sale of metal capsules containing laughing gas (nitrous oxide) has been approved in Belgium's parliamentary health committee on Monday.

Nitrous oxide has been a popular drug among young people for a number of years. "Laughing gas sounds like it is harmless, but it is not at all," federal MP Nawal Farih told VRT.

"Young people use this drug to get into a state of intoxication and that can lead to neurological problems or even permanent brain damage," she added.

Inhaling the gas causes a lack of oxygen in the brain. It can cause irritation to the eyes, throat, airways and nose. Users may also become nauseous and vomit, or even lose consciousness, but it can also be deadly.

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However, nitrous oxide is also a licensed drug and a European recognized nutritional additive. "That makes it very difficult to ask for a total ban on the product," said Farih. "But by banning the sale of nitrous oxide to minors, we would be taking a first step towards protecting our young people," she added.

The bill has yet to be approved by the House of Representatives, which can be done next week at the earliest.

However, the Commission must now consider whether the ban should be submitted to the other European member states, which could delay the final approval of the bill by a few months.

It is the aim to place a warning label on the capsules from now on, reports Het Nieuwsblad. Traders who do not comply with the ban risk a sanction. Farih wants the Federal Agency for Medicines and Health Products (FAMHP) to review the situation within three years, to assess whether this ban is sufficient.

Maïthé Chini

The Brussels Times

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