Nitrous oxide inhaled from balloons has become a party drug among young people. In Gifhorn, people over 18 can even use the machine. Why don’t the authorities intervene?

A vending machine with nitrous oxide bottles alongside sweets and disposable e-cigarettes is causing protests in Gifhorn. At the beginning of May, the city parents’ council called on the local authorities to take action against the machines near a school and daycare center and has now also written a letter to Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD). 

“We have to ask ourselves why the sale of such dangerous substances is permitted near children and young people and are calling for the relevant regulations to be reviewed and tightened,” said Christoph Fink, deputy chairman of the parents’ committee, to the dpa news agency. Several media outlets had previously reported on the laughing gas from the machine.

Nitrous oxide is on the rise as a party drug. In contrast to the Netherlands and Great Britain, sales to private individuals have not yet been restricted in Germany. The operator of the machine in Gifhorn also sells the colorful cartridges in his tobacco shop, but only to people over 18, both at the machine and in the shop, as he emphasizes. In doing so, he was going beyond the law, said the operator, who did not want to read his name in the media. The laughing gas is only available at the machine if you prove that you are of legal age with your ID card.

Concerned parents are demanding more information from Minister Lauterbach about the dangerous party drug in schools as well as a general ban on the sale of laughing gas to minors. The parents also support the Lower Saxony Medical Association’s demand to ban the sale of nitrous oxide cartridges containing more than eight grams to private individuals. 

The German Society for Neurology (DGN) also recently warned against the consumption of nitrous oxide, i.e. nitrous oxide (N2O). It is a fallacy that it is considered low-risk. According to doctors, there is a risk of long-term damage. They ranged from loss of consciousness due to the displacement of oxygen in the lungs to symptoms of paralysis and even brain damage.