Limehouse shop permanently closed after selling illegal ‘laughing gas’

Empty laughing gas canisters.

Empty laughing gas canisters. Pic: ProMo-Cymru

A convenience store in Limehouse caught selling almost 13,500 canisters of illegal nitrous oxide has closed after it was stripped of its licence to sell alcohol.

The store– 24-hour off licence ‘Tanim Superstore’ – had its alcohol license revoked by Tower Hamlets Council on October 16 and is now permanently closed.

Here is the location of where the shop was on a map of London:

The nitrous oxide canisters, more commonly known as ‘laughing gas’, were seized from the shop on Commercial Road. The council have said that this quantity of canisters carries a street value of about £5,620.

Police officers and the council’s environmental health and trading standards officers went undercover in plain clothes and saw a young woman on her way to a party purchasing laughing gas canisters from the shop.

The decision to revoke Tanim Superstore’s licence was made unanimously by council’s licensing sub-committee, following a review.

While the store previously held a 24-hour licence for the sale of alcohol, the sub-committee agreed with police that the licence holder could not show the objectives of the Licensing Act 2003 were being upheld – specifically around crime and disorder and protecting children from harm.

Nitrous oxide gas was first discovered in 1722 by chemist and philosopher Joseph Priestly and has significant medical uses as an anaesthetic, especially in surgery and dental work.

The recreational use of the gas that has a street name of ‘hippy crack’ has recently seen a revival.

It was previously seen as a ‘legal high’, however the government has insisted it is illegal for inhalation and selling under the 2016 Psychoactive Substances Act.

Back in January 2018, Tower Hamlets council managed to clear 1.2m canisters of its streets as part of the launch of its ‘No Laughing Matter’ campaign, launched August 2017, in partnership with Tower Hamlets Police and Tower Hamlets Homes.

The campaign was created to tackle the rise of the circulation of laughing gas in the borough and to educate young people on the consequences of taking it.

Laughing gas is thought to be the party drug of choice for young people – Home Office statistics showed more than 350,000 people aged 16 to 24 admitted using the gas in the year 2013-14. This makes it the second most popular drug among the age group after cannabis. 

According to Talk To Frank, a drug advice line set up by GOV.UK, effects of laughing gas can include ‘feelings of euphoria, relaxation and calmness as well as dizziness, difficulty in thinking straight and fits of giggles/laughter.’

In August earlier this year a mother from Bristol was left paralysed and diagnosed with Lichtheim’s Disease after inhaling as many as 15 balloons each weekend.

Mayor of Tower Hamlets, John Biggs commented on the closure of the store saying: “I commend the licensing sub-committee for revoking the licence in this case and taking a stand against this unacceptable behaviour.

Nitrous oxide has become a significant concern for our residents and across London, and really is no laughing matter. It is linked to a variety of antisocial behaviours and we are doing all we can to tackle it.

We are committed to educating people about the risks and problems associated with ‘laughing gas’, take action against those selling it and clean up the mess it leaves behind.”

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