Baton Rouge, LA (KPEL News) - The Louisiana House Criminal Justice Committee has unanimously approved a measure that would toughen the law relating to nitrous oxide or "laughing gas." The substance has been used for more than 150 years for pain relief, especially in dentistry, but it has become an issue among young people abusing it.

Louisiana Representatives Joe Stangi and Debbie Villio co-authored a bill that would strengthen the current law by banning the possession and sale of nitrous oxide and increase the penalties for breaking the law. They, along with other legislators, were shocked to find out how readily available laughing gas is on the streets.

You may have visited a dentist over the years and had the mask put over your nose that delivered a strange-smelling gas. When you breathed it in, you experienced a euphoria and subsequent giggles. Hence, the name "laughing gas" stuck. Truth be told, whether you got the giggles or not, you welcomed the pain relief and anxiety that often come with the dentist chair.

nitrous oxide

Bad actors developed delivery methods to get nitrous oxide into the hands of people who may be interested in its effects. It's sometimes called whippets. American Addiction Centers explains why:

Nitrous oxide can be misused in the form of whippets (also spelled “whippits”)—small, steel, pressurized canisters containing the gas which are used in pressurized whipped cream dispensers. Nitrous oxide is used as a mixing and foaming agent to make and quickly dispense whipped cream both at home and in the food industry.

Reports in Louisiana have indicated that the cannisters, in various forms, have been available at convenience stores and smoke shops. More disturbing is the fact that, according to the Louisiana Department of Health 59% of children know a friend huffing at age 12. One in 4 students in America has intentionally abused a common household product to get high by the time they turn 13.

laughing gas

Laughing gas and whippets aren't the only name for nitrous oxide on the streets. It's also called nitro, N2O, NOS, hippy crack, buzz bombs, and balloons. However it's delivered, the gas caused an immediate euphoric effect or a feeling of floating.

Because it's a controlled substance designed to use in specific, monitored situations, abusing it has both short and long-term effects. A dose that's too highly concentrated can even cause death.

A doctor explained to a television station what they are seeing across the country, even in Louisiana. The visits to the ER don't have as much to do with the immediate reaction. The long-term side effects can be disastrous.

The bill by Stangi and Villio is making its way through the Louisiana Legislature. All 13 members present during the Criminal Justice Committee meeting gave the nod. Action on the House floor is pending.

The proposition would add "gas" to the existing version which makes a list of substances, including nitrous oxide, illegal as a compound, liquid, or chemical. In addition to other changes, the fine would increase to a maximum of $2500, and a person would face up to a year in prison.

It's already illegal to possess or use laughing gas outside of a controlled setting, but the proposed law would ban its sale in the state. Louisiana would be the first state to implement such restrictions, if the measure passes and is signed by Governor Jeff Landry.

The possession and use of nitrous oxide in medical or dental offices, in the food processing industry, or for automotive purposes would remain legal.

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