Nitrous oxide or laughing gas will become illegal in the UK from next month as part of a major crackdown on anti-social behaviour.

The substance is set to become a Class C controlled drug under the Misuse of Drugs Act (1971) from November 8.

Those caught with nitrous oxide with the intention of illegally inhaling it could be given an unlimited fine, a community punishment or a caution which could appear on their criminal record.

Those dealing it could also face up to 14 years in prison.

Home Office warns nitrous oxide suppliers it will be an offence 'turn a blind eye' to misuse

The new law comes amid measures from the government to crack down on anti-social behaviour linked to the substance.

The anti-social behaviour associated with laughing gas includes "intimidating gatherings" and the discarding of canisters in public spaces.

Chris Philip, Crime and Policing Minister said both users and dealers would "face the full force of the law" as it becomes illegal.

He added: "We are delivering on the promise we made to take a zero-tolerance approach towards anti-social behaviour and flagrant drug taking in our public spaces.

"Abuse of nitrous oxide is also dangerous to people's health and today, we are sending a clear signal to young people that there are consequences for misusing drugs."

While the drug can be used for legitimate purposes such as by professional kitchens and dentists, ministers have warned suppliers to "be responsible" about the reasons for purchase.

The Home Office added that it would be an offence to "turn a blind eye" to misuse.

Professor warns nitrous oxide ban could see users turn to the dark web 

The nitrous oxide ban has been welcomed by many such as the CEO of Neighbourhood Watch John Hayward-Cripps who called it a "positive move" that would make "local communities a better and safer place to live".

However, Harry Summall, a professor in substance use at Liverpool John Moores University, told Sky News that criminalising the substance could encourage people to buy it from the dark web.

She said: "There are more than 600,000 nitrous oxide users in the UK, and most people, if they are using it, are going to be using it a few times a year, at really low levels of risk."

The independent Advisory Council for the Misuse of Drugs previously stopped short of recommending a ban on the gas after conducting a review in 2021.

It said that it "should not be subjected to control under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971".