A trading standards expert has warned online stores need to “take responsibility” to prevent the illicit sale of nitrous oxide.
The gas – dubbed “laughing gas” or “nos” – is being sold with equipment needed to take it as a high on sites like Amazon and eBay, BBC Wales found.
The 22-year-old from Cardiff said: “When you’re that age and everyone around you is doing it, and you’re not really seeing any bad, negative impacts from it, you think, ‘Oh it’s fine, it’s something that young people do’.”
But she experienced fizzing in her nose, nausea and a tight chest after taking a substance friends bought online.
“The next day I felt really, really terrible, and I think it was a lot of anxiety about what I’d done the night before,” Samantha said.
Nitrous oxide has been linked to 17 deaths in the last three years, according to official statistics. Among 16 to 24-year-olds about one in 11 used it last year.
BBC Wales found boxes of nos canisters being sold on Amazon in a special deal including the balloons used to take it.
On eBay, some “crackers” were sold alongside balloons. There were money-saving deals on bulk purchases and nos canisters advertised in the “similar sponsored items” section.
When BBC Wales searched for nitrous oxide canisters on both sites, crackers and balloons also came up in searches and were suggested by the sites’ algorithms as products that could be bought with nos.
A spokesman said: “Those who do not will be subject to action including potential removal of their account.”
Many carry warnings against recreational use, but when a BBC Wales investigator called five sellers in Wales and south-west England, all were happy to deliver nos that night – despite the reporter saying it was for recreational use.
Caerphilly council’s Tim Keohane secured one of Wales’ first prosecutions of a shop for illegally selling it in August.
Caerphilly and Gwent Police prosecuted Khehra Store Ltd after it was found to have sold nos at the 7-11 shop in Bedwas Road, Caerphilly, in 2018.
Anyone found guilty of selling or giving away nitrous oxide for illegal purposes can face up to seven years in prison, an unlimited fine, or both.
Mr Keohane said the offence was harder to prove with online vendors. They can flout the law by selling items separately or posting disclaimers against misuse.
But its legitimate uses – such as for producing whipped cream – made legislating against web distribution difficult.
Mr Keohane said: “Companies like Amazon and eBay need to take responsibility because it is so difficult to police the internet and sellers.”
Mental health nurse Jeremy Davis, of RCN Wales, said: “For every young person who has a balloon at a party and has five minutes that are the best of their evening, there is another one who wakes up in A&E.
Post time: Feb-17-2020