The Government takes the supply of substances for their psychoactive effect very seriously. There are legitimate uses for nitrous oxide, such as in medicine, dentistry and as a propellant for whipped cream canisters, but those who supply nitrous oxide for its recreational use, or who are reckless as to whether it is used for its psychoactive effect, will be subject to an offence under the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016. This includes a maximum sentence of seven years’ imprisonment.
The Government has published guidance for retailers to satisfy themselves that they comply with the law, available on the gov.uk website. The guidance recommends that retailers, including those operating online, should pay particular attention to the potential for abuse of nitrous oxide, especially where customers seek to buy in bulk or large volumes.
We intend to establish in law a new duty of care on companies towards their users, overseen by an independent regulator. The duty of care will ensure companies have appropriate systems in place to deal with harmful content on their internet services and keep users safe. Illegal and harmful activity online such as the supply of psychoactive substances for their psychoactive effect will fall within the scope of the planned legislation.
The Government published its initial response to the consultation on the Online Harms White Paper in February, giving more detail on the policy position and naming Ofcom as the Government’s preferred independent Online Harms regulator. We will publish a full response to the consultation in the coming months and aim to bring legislation before Parliament this session.