The Dutch government is going ahead with the ban on the sale and possession of nitrous oxide, known more commonly as laughing gas, announcing on Monday that the ban will come into effect on January 1, 2023. 

The Netherlands to ban sale and possession of nitrous oxide

The use of laughing gas has been a growing issue across the Netherlands over the past few years, with various Dutch cities and municipalities – including Amsterdam and The Hague – having already taken the decision to ban the sale and / or use of the drug.

The government had initially hoped to implement a nationwide ban back at the start of 2021, however at the time, then State Secretary for Health, Welfare and Sport Paul Blokhuis argued that it wasn’t practically feasible. 

Two years on, the government has agreed to plough on with the plans. From January, laughing gas will fall under the Opium Act (Opiumwet), meaning that it will be prohibited to carry or sell the drug in the Netherlands. The government emphasises that the use of nitrous oxide in some food and in healthcare will remain permitted, but hopes the ban will limit the supply and reduce the recreational use of the drug.

Dutch police relieved by decision to move forward with ban

The Dutch police was relieved to hear the government was taking action, with the ACP union saying officers would now have a legal basis to take action against the use of the drug: “Agents often see reports or disturbances caused by laughing gas. Now there is often no reason to press ahead, but with the ban, there will be.” 

Blokhuis’ successor, Maarten van Ooijen, was also pleased by the decision. “The recreational use of laughing gas leads to enormous health risks. In addition, the safety of non-users is also at stake,” he said in a statement. “In recent years, there has been a call from society to ban the recreational use of laughing gas. I am pleased that we can bring this ban into effect.” 

While some are optimistic the ban will result in real change, the Council of State has been more hesitant to take such drastic action. This summer, the Council asked the cabinet to look into other measures, such as educational campaigns, instead. The coalition parties believe quicker and more decisive action is needed, however: “Because of the major risks of laughing gas use and the necessity of the ban, the cabinet considers it important to have the laughing gas ban come into effect as soon as possible.” 

NOS: Laughing gas played a role in 1.800 traffic accidents

Time and time again, the Dutch police have highlighted the dangers associated with laughing gas, pointing out that the drug can lead to life-threatening situations on Dutch roads when members of the public drive under the influence. 

“There have also been fatal accidents that are directly related to laughing gas,” a spokesperson for the national police force told NOS. Data published last year revealed that, between 2019 and 2021, almost 1.800 traffic accidents involving nitrous oxide took place, 63 of which resulted in fatalities. 

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