Councillor says action must be taken to stop Rugby's young people abusing laughing gas in our parks

One of the canisters found at the GEC Recreation Ground.
One of the canisters found at the GEC Recreation Ground.

Action must be taken to stop young people in the borough risking brain damage and death through the abuse of ‘laughing gas’.

The demand for action has been made by Cllr Jerry Roodhouse, the leader of Rugby’s Lib Dems.

Supplying nitrous oxide for recreational purposes is technically illegal – but the substance can still be bought in the UK in small metal canisters to be used to make whipped cream.

Experts state the use of the drug can cause brain damage, nerve damage and death.

Cllr Roodhouse said: “This is a problem across the borough.

“It is not illegal to purchase these cylinders which contain nitrous oxide as they are used in some foods, such as cream.

“They can be bought easily on web sites. The difficultly then is their illegal use as an intoxicating substance.”

Cllr Roodhouse highlighted increasing reports of canisters littered across the GEC Recreation Ground on Hillmorton Road.

And when an Advertiser reporter went to the park they found numerous used canisters in the bushes around the rec’s two car parks, with a resident telling the reporter that canisters are a common sight.

Cllr Roodhouse has tabled a written question which was answered at Rugby’s full council meeting of September 26.

The written question in full is: “There is an increasing evidence that young people within the borough are using increased amounts of ‘nitrous oxide’ laughing gas.

“The medical evidence has also increased about the damage this can do to the brain.

“Could the portfolio holder state what actions the council is taking with the other agencies to reduce this?”

At the meeting, Cllr Roberts, Environment and Public Realm portfolio holder, said: "The Council is aware of nitrous oxide abuse and the associated potential health risks.

"This is an issue about which I have written to the local members of Parliament and the office of the Warwickshire Police and Crime Commissioner, in order to ensure that we are all acting on the best possible intelligence and responding to the issue in a joined up manner.

"There is no local or national data to illustrate the numbers of individuals using nitrous oxide in Warwickshire.

"Warwickshire’s commissioned Young People’s Drug and Alcohol service provider have not received any referrals specifically relating to young people using nitrous oxide.

"They will however be working to implement referral pathways for this as it is evident that the need is clear and they will also issue harm reduction messages.

"For Rugby Borough Council, the Town Centre Public Space Protection Order provides a means of supporting enforcement where instances of substance misuse, including nitrous oxide, are suspected.

"Further, the council’s community wardens already proactively patrol and remove used cylinders from known areas with high levels of misuse of nitrous oxide.

"Where cylinders are found, officers are working with partners and commissioned Drug and Alcohol service providers to map the locations, with the aim of helping to direct the focus of where messages and information that can be shared.

"I recognise the importance of increasing community understanding of the risks associated with nitrous oxide and will further raise the issue with partner organisations, with a view to developing a localised awareness campaign.

Cllr Roodhouse then asked if the portfolio holder would join him and the Labour group leader (Cllr Maggie O'Rourke) in sending a cross party letter to the Local Government Association and secretary of state on this issue.

The portfolio holder replied that he was happy to do that.