Amazon has come under fire for offering the legal high nitrous oxide, otherwise known as laughing gas or "hippy crack" for as little as 30p a hit through its online shop.
Sold as a means of filling whipped cream dispensers, the nitrous oxide inside the canisters delivers an intense high which can potentially lead to death through lack of oxygen in serious cases and vitamin B12 deficiency if used regularly, according to drugs advice website Talk to Frank. Amazon was offering cases of 100 cartridges for as little as £29.93, and while it appears not to sell the offending "Whip It" branded wares itself, third party retailers such as Superstars (from which Amazon takes a cut of takings) still are.
Though there are legitimate catering purposes for the canisters, Amazon's system of directing people to items regularly purchased together (in this case, high-enabling balloons and the crackers with which to fill them) seems solely to cater for the gas's use as a drug. As a result, Amazon has come under fire from anti-drug campaigners.
“It’s terrible, this is irresponsible of Amazon," said Stephen Ream of drugs charity Re-Solve, speaking to the Mirror.
"Surely they can put some kind of block on their system. They are selling a legitimate catering product but it’s clear some people are buying it for abuse.
“Directing buyers towards the cracker and the balloons is really irresponsible. There is no reason to be purchasing balloons if you are buying the other two products. The balloons are only used for one thing, abusing the gas.”
Nitrous oxide dissolves in the blood, reducing the oxygen flow to the brain and other organs. While its inhalation results for some in pleasant giggling fits, others find it intensely uncomfortable, with serious risks of strokes and seizures as a result. While it's not illegal to sell nitrous oxide in England and Wales, it is against the law to sell it to those under 18 years of age if they're expected to be inhaling it. [Mirror]