Being in possession of laughing gas with the intent of getting high has been made illegal from today (November 8) and repeat offenders will face up to two years in jail.

Dealers who try to sell nitrous oxide which is nicknamed “hippy crack” could face up to 14 years behind bars.

The ban was promised as part of the Government’s anti-social behaviour action plan and makes nitrous oxide a class C drug under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.

This means possession of nitrous oxide, where a person intends to wrongfully inhale it for a psychoactive effect, is now an offence.

News Shopper: Dealers who try to sell nitrous oxide could face up to 14 years behind barsDealers who try to sell nitrous oxide could face up to 14 years behind bars (Image: Andrew Matthews/PA)

An unlimited fine, community sentences or, for repeat serious offenders, a prison term are all possible consequences.

The gas can still be used for legitimate reasons like catering, pain relief during labour or in model rockets despite the ban being in place.

Licences will not be required to carry nitrous oxide but users will need to demonstrate they are lawfully in possession of the gas and not intending to wrongfully inhale it.

Crime and Policing Minister Chris Philp said: “Today we are sending a clear signal to people, especially young people, that not only is abuse of nitrous oxide dangerous to their health, but it is also illegal and those caught possessing it will face consequences.”

What is a class C drug?

Drugs are split into classes with each class resulting in different penalties for possession and supply and production of them.

A class C drug means anyone who is caught in possession of it could face up to two years in prison, an unlimited fine or even both, according to the government website.

Supply and production of class C drugs can result in up to 14 years in prison and/or an unlimited fine.

The Home Office said nitrous oxide is the third most used drug among 16 to 24-year-olds in England and police have reported links to antisocial behaviour.

This has included intimidating gatherings on high streets and in children’s parks and empty canisters strewn across public spaces.