The Law

Legal or illegal?

Solvent Abuse - VSA is not illegal, however there are restrictions on the sales of some products:

Cigarette Lighter Refill (Safety) Regulations 1999 - It is an offence to supply cigarette lighter refills containing butane or a substance with butane as a constituent part to any person under the age of 18 years.

The maximum penalty for a breach of the Cigarette Lighter Refill (Safety) Regulations and the Intoxicating Substances (Supply) Act by the retailer is a six‑month prison sentence and a fine of £5000. The Act is applicable in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Intoxicating Substances (Supply) Act 1985 - Under this act, it was illegal for a person to sell or supply a substance to anyone believed to be under the age of 18, or anyone acting on behalf of someone under that age, if he or she has reasonable cause to believe that the substance may be inhaled for the purpose of intoxication. This act has now been replaced with the Psychoactive Substance Act 2016.

Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003 - It is an offence to sell spray paint to anyone under the age of 16, penalty of £2,500.

Petroleum (Consolidation) Act 1968 - It is illegal to sell petrol to anyone under the age of 16.  No-one under the age of 16 is allowed to dispense petrol.

Medicines Act 1968 - Although nitrous oxide can be legally purchased and used for food related purposes (i.e. whipping cream), the supply of nitrous oxide for inhalation ie recreational drug use, is strictly illegal, as it can only be supplied in this form by a registered pharmacist.

Vendors, who supply nitrous oxide (laughing gas) for inhalation purposes or allow it to be supplied, are committing an offence under Section 52 of the Medicines Act 1968 of selling and/or supplying a pharmacy medicine not under the control of a pharmacist.

Crime
Crimes committed by those ‘high’ on volatile substances include vandalism, theft, assault, rape and murder, with the number of those receiving Anti-social behaviour orders said to be increasing.

Due to the complex nature of Solvent Abuse - VSA, and the higher profile of illegal drugs, Solvent Abuse - VSA is often omitted from drug education programmes and professional training.  Preventative education which includes teaching life skills can lessen the risk of children and young people becoming problematic Solvent Abuse - VSA users, reducing the possible risk of them becoming involved in crime.

Banning products
The Advisory council on Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) comment that the widespread availability of abusable products may do much to explain their continued popularity.  The question of why the government does not ban products that when abused have the potential for such devastating effects is frequently asked, however with legitimate everyday uses in accordance with manufacturers instructions they are perfectly safe to use.  Some manufacturer’s products have been made less easy to abuse through removing or reducing some chemicals and some have added a bitterant which they believe will discourage Solvent Abuse - VSA but there is no real research to confirm this is successful.
 

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