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Vietnam Might Add Laughing Gas to List of Banned Narcotics

Although laughing gas is currently laxly regulated in Vietnam, local officials want to tighten restrictions on the consumption of the dangerous gas.

A constituent from Bac Lieu recently submitted a question to the Ministry of Public Security regarding Vietnamese youth’s use of “bóng cười,” the local term for balloons filled with laughing gas. These balloons are openly available in clubs and bars and even cafes across Vietnam, as they’re not classified as a banned substance.

However, that may change soon. In response to the question, the ministry says on its website, as Phap Luat reports, that it acknowledges the danger the gas poses to human health and the need for more stringent regulation. Moving forward, it will collaborate with relevant agencies to assess the current situation of recreational laughing gas abuse in Vietnam and research how the substance is regulated in other countries. This is to eventually consider adding laughing gas to Vietnam’s list of banned narcotics and addictive precursors.

Laughing gas is the street name for nitrous oxide, an inhalant that has anesthetic and hallucinating effects. It’s usually used in dentistry for anesthesia and in food production to as an aerosol propellant. Many countries prohibit human consumption of the gas, but food-grade nitrous oxide canisters, like those containing whipped cream, are available for purchase without a permit.

Currently, Vietnam doesn’t regulate nitrous oxide usage, just production and sales. Illegal production and selling of the gas can result in fines from VND12 million to 20 million.

Nonetheless, the ease with which young Vietnamese can obtain laughing gas balloons increases risks of overdose and addiction. Consumption of industrial-grade gas is also dangerous due to the number of unknown impurities in the balloon.

Hanoi Moi reports that every day the Poison Control Center of the capital’s Bach Mai Hospital receives a few cases of laughing gas abuse. Some patients go beyond casual use in bars and parties to buying their own nitrous oxide tanks to consume at home at the equivalence of dozens of balloon a day. Its toxicity can lead to neural damage, vertigo, difficulty breathing, the hospital observes in its patients. In 2018, one person died in Hanoi after doing laughing gas and drowning in a swimming pool. 

[Photo via FranceSoir]

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