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Would you mess around with Hippie Crack?

As Executive Member for Health and Well-Being at Adur District Council, and as a  West Sussex County Councillor I have a great deal of concern about the dangerous and continued use of Nitrous Oxide (NOS), sometimes called ‘Hippie Crack, ‘Whippits’, ‘Balloons’ or Laughing Gas’ by young people.


  • Across the Adur and Worthing areas, we are seeing an increase of gatherings of young people where cannisters containing NOS are being used to inhale the contents. Whether this is in isolation, or combined with alcohol and other substances, there is an undoubted, recorded and acknowledged list of dangers to health.
  • As of 2016, nitrous oxide is covered by the Psychoactive Substances Act and although it is not illegal to possess it (there are some legitimate uses), it is an offence to sell or supply it for its psychoactive effect, an offence that can carry a term on indictment of up to 7 years in prison, an unlimited fine or both. There have across the UK, been many deaths attributed to this sort of abuse of NOS over a number of years.
  • Like drink-driving, when people are high on NOS it is dangerous and illegal to drive. If you’re caught driving under the influence, you may receive a heavy fine, driving ban, or a prison sentence.
  • Nitrous oxide can cause dizziness and affect judgement, thereby creating a risk of accidents. In large quantities it can also cause the user to faint or pass out, and if nitrous oxide is inhaled through the mouth from a pressurised gas canister or in a confined space it can cause sudden death through lack of oxygen. Heavy, regular use of the drug can cause a deficiency of vitamin B12 and a form of anaemia, and severe vitamin B deficiency can cause serious nerve damage or even paralysis. What is concerning is that young people are purchasing large qualities of these cannisters over the internet, often boxes of over 20 at a time. Recognising that is an offence to sell it to a person under 18, perhaps more needs to be done by on-line retailers to ensure that they ask the right questions of potential purchasers, something that has already been subject of enquiries elsewhere.

Sadly, young people do not always clearly see the risks involved in continuing this practice.  My plea is therefore to both young people and their parents. 

  • To young people, respect your bodies, be careful what you do, research the possible results of this sort of abuse, recognise the potential long term damage you may cause to your health and well-being, and make your own choices rather than respond to peer pressure.
  • To parents, be aware of what your child or young person is purchasing on-line and what they may have in their rooms or their bags. if you find that they are purchasing these items or are concerned that they may be using them, talk to them about the possible consequences and encourage them to understand the risks.


You can also seek professional help from one of the drug support agencies such as ‘FRANK’ telephone 0300 1236600 or other support organisations who can give you more information and advice on how to tackle the issue and counsel your young person. After all, our main priority is to do whatever is necessary to keep our young people healthy and safe, and able to take advantage of every opportunity during their lives.


Examples of debris left after a recent gathering of young people in Lancing


Councillor David Simmons; Executive Member, Adur District Council

Councillor    David Simmons

  • Executive Member for Health and Well-Being, and the member for Hillside ward, Adur District Council 
  • Member for Southwick Division West Sussex County Council
  • Senior Advisor for Special Needs Education, West Sussex County Council
  • Appointed Governor for the Sussex NHS Partnership Trust dealing with Mental Health
  • Chair of the School Council at Sir Robert Woodard Academy Sompting
  • Member of Sussex Crimestoppers Board

Councillor David Simmons

42 Greenways Crescent


BN43 6HS


Tel: 01273 464018 (home)

Mobile: 0772 505 4389

e-mail: david.simmons@adur.gov.uk


Councillor  Angus Dunn

Executive Member for Finance and Deputy Leader at Adur District Council

Councillor Angus Dunn

86, Church Green


BN43 6JU


Tel.: 01273 870067

Mobile: 07760 486552



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