No Laughing Matter – A look at the imminent classification of Nitrous Oxide from a Licensing Act 2003 perspective

26th October 2023

Our Licensing team look into how premises licence holders should treat laughing gas with the new Law coming into force on 8 November.


Laughing gas, also known as Nitrous oxide or colloquially ‘Nos’ is to become a Class C illegal substance by the end of the year. From 8 November 2023, possession of nitrous oxide will be illegal. Repeat users could face up to 2 years in prison and dealers up to 14 years. The ban has been introduced following increased use in the drug by 16- to 24-year-olds, despite the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs advice that it would be disproportionate to the amount of harm caused by the drug.

Premises licence holders will now need to treat laughing gas like any other prohibited substance on the premises.

It is the duty of all licensed premises to create a safe and secure environment for their customers and to take steps to promote all four of the licensing objectives, which are the prevention of crime and disorder, public safety, prevention of public nuisance and protection of children from harm.

Premises owners and staff will need to be more vigilant in terms of looking out for the drug, which is typically released into balloons from small silver canisters and then inhaled. There will be exemptions for legitimate use of nitrous oxide, for example in catering.

So, as a premises, what do you need to do?

  • Keep your anti-drugs policy up to date.
  • Revisit your risk assessment.
  • Consider putting notices in your premises advising customers that the use of nitrous oxide is prohibited.

If you have questions about drug use and your duties as a premises licence holder, or any other queries under the Licensing Act 2003, please get in touch with our North-West Tier 1 licensing team on 0161 832 3434.

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