To prevent teenagers from abusing laughing gas, the EPA announced on 20 July that “laughing gas” will be listed as the first “concerned chemical substance.” The EPA will work with the Ministry of Economic Affairs, the Ministry of Health and Welfare, and the National Police Agency to implement joint control. Activities that involve the manufacture, import and sale of laughing gas shall acquire prior permission, and all transactions shall be reported. In addition, online transactions of laughing gas will be banned. Relevant regulations are expected to be announced and in effect by the end of October 2020.
Nitrous oxide, also known as laughing gas, is normally used in the manufacturing of semiconductors, food production, and as an anasthetic. Due to its anesthetic and pain-relieving effects, the police have encountered several cases of substance abuse involving laughing gas among teenagers in places such as hotels and night clubs over the past few years. As directed by the Executive Yuan, to safeguard the health of adolescents, all relevant ministries are to evaluate current policies and work together to halt the misuse of laughing gas, particularly by teenagers.
The EPA pointed out that hitherto 98% of the laughing gas in Taiwan has been used for normal purposes, so the EPA will be focusing on tracking the flow and use of the other 2%. The EPA will be strengthening the management of laughing gas based on the “4 dos and 2 don’ts” principles: “do get permits, do label, do report every transaction online, do report every month, don’t sell or buy online, and don’t operate without permits.” To better track the flow of laughing gas, any activities involving laughing gas, including manufacture, import, export, sale, transport, use and storage, will require auditing and permits. The EPA also added that listing laughing gas as a concerned chemical substance will not affect the currently existing regulations that regulate its normal use. The listing is mainly to strengthen the tracking of laughing gas during the importing, manufacturing, and packaging processes, where the substance can be easily smuggled out of facilities. In addition, except for specific purposes that are reviewed and approved, odorants must be added to laughing gas in the future to discourage its improper use.
For business operators who were already using laughing gas for industrial purposes before the announcement, regulations concerning recording, online reporting, monthly reports, and the online sales ban shall take effect immediately after the announcement. Business operators shall also acquire permits and finish labelling containers within six months of the announcement.
Laughing gas will be the first substance listed and regulated as a concerned chemical substance after the management of concerned chemical substances was covered in the Toxic and Concerned Chemical Substances Control Act of 16 January 2020. The EPA has formulated a series of management regulations after thorough evaluation and investigation.
After the official announcement, any illegal possession of laughing gas found in night clubs and hotels may be fined NT$30,000 to NT$300,000. If it causes adverse effects on human health or death, violators may be subject to life imprisonment or more than 7 years of imprisonment and fines of up to NT$10,000,000. To deter online transactions, people who sell laughing gas on an online trading platform may be subject to fines of between NT$60,000 to NT$300,000.
Excerpt from Environmental Policy Monthly, 23 (8)
- Environmental Protection Administration, R.O.C.(Taiwan)