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Nitrous Oxide Imports for Misuse Illegal

22 April 2005

Importers Warned: Nitrous Oxide Imports for Misuse Illegal

The Ministry of Health warns that nitrous oxide imports will receive greater scrutiny from today .

After a review of the law this month, the import, sale, possession and use of nitrous oxide as a "recreational drug", instead of as a prescription medicine, was found to contravene the Medicines Act 1981. As such, the Medicines Act provides mechanisms to prevent the import, sale, possession, and use of nitrous oxide for inhalation for non-medical purposes.

Acting Deputy Director-General Public Health Cynthia Maling says all importers of nitrous oxide (sometimes referred to as 'nos') will now need to be able to demonstrate to the New Zealand Customs Service that their imports comply with the importation requirements of the Medicines Act 1981.

She says importers are being warned that imports under the guise of sham sales for cream dispensing will not be allowed.

The Ministry is aware that nitrous oxide is used as a fuel in some high performance engines and as a propellant in some foods such as whipped cream and will be taking steps to allow those uses to continue, so long as they too do not lead to unlawful inhalation uses.

The Ministry has today sent letters to all known importers of nitrous oxide to advise them of this change in status, so that they are aware of the clamp down on nitrous oxide's use as a recreational drug.

Because the reviewed advice on its status has affected what many people thought were allowable sales, authorities are working first towards eliminating imports of the product for unlawful inhalation.

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