The ban on nitrous oxide has been welcomed by the Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner.

Now categorised as a class C drug, possession of laughing gas for its "psychoactive effects" will carry a sentence of up to two years in prison.

Breathing in the gas creates a psychoactive effect and can lead to serious health problems such as neurological damage and even death due to the risk of falling unconscious and/or suffocating from the lack of oxygen.

Commissioner David Sidwick said: “I wholeheartedly welcome the introduction of today’s law to make possession of nitrous oxide illegal.

"For some time now I have been campaigning for this to happen, and I am delighted to see this important change in the law go live from today.

"In my role as Association of Police and Crime Commissioners’ (APCC) Joint Lead for Addictions and Substance Misuse, with co-chair Durham PCC Joy Allen, I have repeatedly raised concerns over the past two years - publicly and directly with the government - about the prevalence of nitrous oxide in a bid for stronger legislation surrounding this harmful drug.

"From initially leading calls for a review on nitrous oxide, to vigorously lobbying the Home Office for a potential crackdown on the drug, I am proud to have been part of the fight to achieve this vital change, protecting our young people and communities in Dorset and beyond.”

The drug is more commonly known by its street names ‘laughing gas’ or ‘NOS’ and was being increasingly used as a recreational drug among Dorset’s young people.

Mr Sidwick continued: “To now see this law in action, benefitting every county in the country, is a key milestone in my ongoing fight to protect the most vulnerable in our communities.

“I know the sight of those silver cannisters, and balloon litter strewn across our parks, beaches and playgrounds was a cause for concern in communities across Dorset.

"As your Police and Crime Commissioner, it is my mission to ensure anti-social behaviour is tackled, ensuring you feel safe where you live and work. I hope this legislation will go some way towards this and give police the tools to deal with the issues which affect your community.

"Tackling the issue of drugs in Dorset is a priority in my Police and Crime Plan. Whether this is through continuing to lobby over the harmful effects of cannabis, to leading the multi-agency Combatting Drugs Partnership in Dorset, I remain committed to making Dorset the safest county to live."