Nitrous oxide supply restrictions

The Medicines and Poisons Regulations 2016 (external site), will be amended to strictly limit access to nitrous oxide and help reduce the associated health harms that come with misuse.

Nitrous oxide is a colourless, non-flammable gas, with various medical, commercial, and scientific uses.

It is also misused as a recreational drug and is already classified as a schedule 6 poison under the Medicines and Poisons Regulations 2016.

Changes to regulations follow close consultation between the Department of Health, the Mental Health Commission, WA Government, and industry representatives.

Under the new regulations, nitrous oxide for food and beverage use will only be accessible to:

  • Registered food businesses
  • Select businesses with a liquor licence
  • Other persons approved by the WA Department of Health

These changes will not impact access to nitrous oxide for registered food and beverage businesses. Medical or automotive use of nitrous oxide will not be affected.

Due to the significant public health concerns around misuse, the new regulations will be put into place as soon as possible in 2024. Suppliers will need to comply with the new rules as soon as they are introduced.

Nitrous oxide for suppliers

The new regulations will apply to all sales and supplies of nitrous oxide in WA – including retail and wholesale premises, as well as online suppliers.

Prior to these changes taking effect, suppliers will be given detail information on how to comply with the new rules.

Suppliers will need to obtain evidence from each purchaser that they are a registered food business, or otherwise authorised to purchases nitrous oxide.

Nitrous oxide can only be sold in small cannisters (bulbs) of 10 grams or less. Sale and supply of large cannisters will be prohibited.

After the new laws take effect, all suppliers will need to immediately comply with these laws – due to the serious public health concerns from misuse of nitrous oxide, there will be no transition period for compliance.

Nitrous oxide for buyers

You can continue to purchase nitrous oxide for food and beverage use if you are a:

  • registered food business
  • business with a liquor licence that prepares beverages for on-site consumption (pubs, bars, and clubs)
  • person authorised in writing by the WA Department of Health

Examples of legitimate uses that may be authorised by the WA Department of Health include education and teaching purposes such as cooking and catering schools, scientific applications and research or related reasons.

When purchasing nitrous oxide, you will need to provide evidence that you are an approved type of business. This could include a copy of a food business certificate, liquor licence or Health Department authorisation.

Summary of nitrous oxide regulation change

Recreational misuse and abuse of nitrous oxide poses significant health and safety risks to members of the WA community, including permanent brain and spinal cord damage.

These changes are being introduced to help reduce the potential for these significant health harms.

Following the introduction of these new regulations, the Department of Health will be inspecting suppliers of nitrous oxide as part of routine public health regulation compliance and enforcement programs.

Suppliers that do not comply with the new restrictions risk possible penalties or prosecution.

As the regulation changes are being written into law and officially put into effect, the Department of Health will provide further details to the relevant industries.

More information

In an emergency call 000 or visit your local emergency department.

If you, or someone you know is affected by the use of nitrous oxide or other substances, you can get help at:

Last reviewed: 24-03-2024
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Public Health