Poppers won’t be exempt from crackdown on legal highs, Government confirms

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

The Minister leading the Government’s efforts to ban legal highs has said poppers will not be exempt from the law.

A draft bill unveiled by Home Secretary Theresa May earlier this year would tackle legal highs by implementing a blanket ban on the sale of “psychoactive substances”, with those found guilty of selling them facing up to seven years in jail.

Poppers won’t be exempt from crackdown on legal highs, Government confirms

As well as substances such as nitrous oxide, known as laughing gas, being banned under the proposed laws, the alkyl nitrite drugs commonly known as poppers would also be made illegal.

The use of poppers is commonplace on the gay club scene, among men engaging in anal sex.

Home Office Minister Mike Penning spoke to a delegation last night in his office from the gay community.

The Minister told the delegation, who argued in favour of exempting poppers from the ban, that he intended to push ahead with a blanket ban, including purchase or import online.

The law will be enacted by trading standards officers from April 2016, but sellers or purchasers face up to a 7 year sentence.

Speaking to PinkNews, Minister for Policing, Crime, Criminal Justice and Victims Mike Penning said: “The Psychoactive Substances Bill has been the subject of wide ranging public and parliamentary scrutiny and is based on the advice of medical and scientific experts.

“The Bill will deliver on the Government’s commitment for a blanket ban on the production, supply and importation of harmful psychoactive substances, which have contributed to the unnecessary and tragic deaths of 129 people in Britain last year.”

The Select Committee’s report on the Psychoactive Substances bill notes evidence submissions from Professor Les Iversen, Chair of the ACMD, as well as groups including the National AIDS Trust, warning that criminalising them could do more harm than good.

The report officially recommends: “Professor Iversen said ‘poppers’ were ‘not seen to be capable of having harmful effects sufficient to constitute a societal problem’ and therefore we recommend they should not be banned.

“If in the future there is any evidence produced to the contrary, then ‘poppers’ should be removed from the exempted list or controlled under the Misuse of Drugs Act.”

It comes after the National AIDS Trust told the Committee that banning poppers would criminalise parts of the gay community, possibly driving them underground towards other harder drugs.

The report adds: “[Professor Iversen] said that in the past the ACMD had not seen sufficient scientific evidence for harm in the case of ‘poppers’ to justify a recommendation under the Misuse of Drugs Act, and that he was not aware of any growth in the use of ‘poppers’.

“Professor Iversen subsequently wrote to us stating that, when the Council last assessed the harms associated with ‘poppers’ it concluded that the misuse of ‘poppers’ was “not seen to be capable of having harmful effects sufficient to constitute a societal problem.”

Last year a study was published in the Lancet, which suggested that sight-loss could be a side effect of using poppers. Titled ‘Poppers maculopathy’, the study focussed on subjects who lost sight in both eyes, after having had no previous sight issues.

PinkNews has reached out to the Home Office for comment