Thai authorities are cracking down on vendors in Bangkok’s main backpacker district selling cheap doses of balloons filled with nitrous oxide, or laughing gas, to tourists.
Eight vendors have been arrested since police first noticed the trend a few weeks ago along Khao San Road, a pedestrian street lined with bars and cheap hotels, police Lt. Col. Pitiphan Kridakorn said Monday.
Each dose sells for about 130 baht, or $4.
Pitiphan said the sale of drug-filled balloons started in popular beaches, such as Koh Samui, Pattaya and Koh Pagnan — an island known for “full moon” parties fueled by drugs and alcohol.
He said police are trying to curb sales of the drug-filled balloons in the capital before it gains wider popularity, and illicit sales of nitrous oxide could cause harmful side effects to users and give the country a negative image, he said.
Those arrested face up to five years in prison and a $300 fine for selling medicine without authorization.
People responding to the news on a Thai forum said the crackdown wouldn’t deter people from obtaining the nitrous oxide.
“Lol, as usual an article (and responses) from people with no idea what they are talking about,” said one user. “This stuff is available from any bulk foods store, what do you think whips your cream in your cappucino machines – food grade catridges, that are legally imported and safe for human consumption. I’m sure you can walk into a supermarket and buy boxes of the stuff without any hassle. Every container of pre whipped cream in your supermarket has the stuff in it. “
Others said that it is a good initiative that will help protect tourists “from themselves” and crackdown on the black market.
Nitrous oxide, also known as laughing gas, is a chemical compound that is typically used by doctors for surgery. It makes people feel less pain and also has a euphoric effect.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.