"Soft" banning of nitrous oxide and cigarettes isn't enough - people will still find a way

Making nitrous oxide and cigarettes illegal is a good start - but the government should have gone further.

Cigarettes will be a thing of the past - in about 80 years.Cigarettes will be a thing of the past - in about 80 years.
Cigarettes will be a thing of the past - in about 80 years.

The government has finally taken a stand against cigarettes and nitrous oxide - but is it a case of too little, too late?

In the King's Speech it was confirmed that the government will be banning the sale of cigarettes to everyone currently aged 14 and under, with the minimum age increasing by one year, every year. This means there will be a generational phasing out of smoking in the UK, to the chagrin of companies like Imperial and British American Tobacco.

It's currently illegal to sell tobacco products to anybody under 18, which begs the question - why not phase it out immediately instead of giving current 15-17 year olds the option to buy them?

What's more, think back to your own childhood days, and the kids who would ask their older siblings - or even random strangers - to buy them alcohol at the corner shop. That will presumably continue to happen with cigarettes, and there is almost nothing that can be done to prevent that.

Perhaps banning them outright would be too damaging to our oh-so-precious economy, but this reporter would argue that it would be far more beneficial to public health, and the tobacco companies would probably adapt to selling something like vaping instead.

Then today (8 November) possession of nitrous oxide, otherwise known as laughing gas, was also made illegal by the government.

Typically used as a painkiller in medicine and dentistry, nitrous oxide has become a widely used recreational drug among 16-24 year olds in the UK, with tiny canisters often being found on the ground at festivals and raves. Consequences of possession could now include an unlimited fine, community sentences or, for repeat serious offenders, a prison term.

It's an interesting move, and one that has been hotly debated - but the heath risks are too stark to ignore. America's National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has reported a connection with long-term use and infertility, for example. One-off users have also previously reported blacking out, feeling dizzy and tiredness.

But this laughing gas will still be available for purchase to use in catering, pain relief during labour or in model rockets. This means those who want it badly enough will still get hold of it - most likely through online retailers.

Should the government have gone further and banned it outright, excluding purchases from health organisations like the NHS? I'm sure rocket model makers could have found an alternative...

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