Home Secretary Suella Braverman has pledged to introduce new measures to tackle the “unacceptable” use of laughing gas, amid calls for tougher restrictions.
A review commissioned by the Government to examine the harms of nitrous oxide stopped short of recommending a ban on the substance in a recent report.
Speaking in the Commons, Conservative MP Anna Firth (Southend West) said: “Last summer saw teenagers abusing hundreds of canisters of nitrous oxide along Southend seafront and today firefighters have reported cutting people out of vehicles due to nitrous oxide abuse behind the wheel.
Ms Braverman replied: “The Psychoactive Substances Act provides police with the powers to clamp down on supply of nitrous oxide for non-legitimate use.
“But she is right and I am clear that the use and proliferation of nitrous oxide is unacceptable and we will be announcing new measures soon.”
Ministers earlier this year looked at outlawing both the sale and possession of laughing gas as part of a bid to tackle anti-social behaviour.
The assessment by the independent Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) said the substance “should not be subjected to control under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971”.
It concluded the sanctions for offences under the act would be disproportionate with the level of harm associated with nitrous oxide and that such control could create “significant burdens” for legitimate uses of the substance.
Examples of legitimate use cited in the report included as an anaesthetic in medical and dental contexts and as a gas for whipped cream.
Existing legislation means the production, supply and importation of nitrous oxide for its psychoactive effects is illegal – but not possession.