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Use of laughing gas on the rise at events

Dutch festivalgoers are increasing partaking in the use of nitrous oxide, a legal but potentially harmful pastime, according to event producers' association VVEM

By Jon Chapple on 04 Oct 2018

Nitrous oxide whippets

Discarded nitrous whippets in Utrecht, Netherlands

image © Hans Muller

The use of nitrous oxide, or laughing gas, at live events such as concerts and festivals is on the increase, according to the members of the Dutch Association of Event Producers (VVEM).

VVEM – which along with promoters’ association VNPF represents the country’s live entertainment sector – says use of the gas, which is usually inhaled via balloons filled with nitrous by metal ‘whippets’, is becoming more popular in the Netherlands, with users typically not seeing nitrous as a ‘drug’ in the same way as other substances.

While the association notes it’s receiving more and more questions from promoters about “how to deal with members of the public who take laughing gas [whippets] to an event, or ask for it to be sold”, it is difficult to prevent its use: There are currently “no indications of serious health risks”, and the sale, possession and use of nitrous oxide is legal in the Netherlands and throughout most of the EU. “That is why the drug, which is usually inhaled via balloons, is popular,” reads a VVEM statement.

“The choice to allow nitrous oxide on site is up to the organiser”

Its legality, however, “does not detract from the fact that there are indeed dangers associated with the use” of nitrous, the association continues. “For example, according to the Trimbos Institute, users have reported, in addition to the desired effects (hallucinations), side effects such as dizziness, confusion and headaches. […]

“Several VVEM members state that – although there is no legal obstacle – they see nothing positive in the sale of nitrous oxide at their event. Why would you deliberately send your visitors into a daze? In addition, they have witnessed [negative] side effects in combination with alcohol.”

“Nevertheless, the choice is up to the organising party, and venue owners can not forbid event organisers who decide to allow its sale. VVEM does, however, argue for more education about the use and effects of nitrous oxide.”


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