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Nitrous Oxide regulations

In South Australia the sale of nitrous oxide is regulated by the Controlled Substances Act (1984). The Act was updated to include regulations that impose new penalties for the sale of nitrous oxide for brick and mortar stores and online businesses. 

Changes commencing 1 April 2020

Under the new Controlled Substances (Poisons) (Nitrous Oxide) Variation Regulations 2019 it is an offence to:

  • sell or supply to people under the age of 18
  • sell between the hours of 10pm and 5am
  • make nitrous oxide visible or accessible to the public in retail stores
  • fail to display a notice on the premises that details the offence of selling to under 18s. 

Retailers selling nitrous oxide must display this notice (PDF 156KB) and ensure it is visible to the public. 

New penalties

From 1 April 2020 sellers of nitrous oxide will face harsher penalties if they fail to follow the new regulations. 

  • If nitrious oxide is sold from 10pm to 5am, the seller can be fined up to $5,000. 
  • If the retailer fails to store nitrous oxide out of sight and inaccessible to the public they can be fined up to $5,000.
  • If the retailer failes to display a notice on the premises detailing the offence to sell or supply to under 18s, they can receive an on the spot expiation of $315 or be fined up to $2,500. 

South Australia Police will be undertaking compliance activities in respect of the new regulations. Members of the public can contact SAPOL on 131 444 to report instances where retailers appear to be in breach of the regulations. 

Health information on volatile substances (including nitrous oxide) is available on the SA Health website

Further information 

Why have these regulations been introduced? 
In 2019, the misuse of nitrous oxide had been raised in the media and by Members of Parliament calling for new regulations. Additionally there had been concerns raised by some youth organisations about the growing presence and use of the nitrous oxide canisters in and around youth events. Complaints had also been made about the litter and hazards created by people leaving the canisters on the ground, with particular issues seen around the Hindley Street and CBD areas.

These regulations introduce a solution that puts tighter controls around the sale of nitrous oxide and addresses the concerns and issues raised by community in a timely way. 
 Is there a phase-in period for businesses to adjust their practices? 
A phase-in period was announced by the Attorney-General in November 2019 which commenced from the creation of the regulations at the end of 2019 through to the regulation commencement date of 1 April 2020. It was anticipated that the phase-in period would allow sufficient time for businesses to modify their business practices in line with the regulations. 

All businesses selling nitrous oxide are required to be compliant from 1 April 2020. 
Can I still purchase nitrous oxide canisters? 
You can continue to purchase nitrous oxide canisters, however there are now some restrictions.

The introduced regulations do not ban nitrous oxide. They recognise its use in cooking and for other needs, but simply prohibit the sale and supply to minors and puts tighter controls around its sale, including sales occurring between the hours of 10pm and 5am.

You may also notice that in stores selling nitrous oxide, the product is no longer visible or accessible. You will need to approach a staff member to assist you with your purchase.

Store owners are now also required to display a notice (PDF 156KB) on the premises that details the offence of selling or supplying to persons under 18 years of age. 
Can cooking or catering schools supply canisters to students for classes - ie for whipping cream? 
Cooking and catering institutions have received an exemption under the regulations permitting them to continue to provide students with access to nitrous oxide for legitimate cooking and catering purposes. 
Do these regulations apply to interstate operators selling to South Australian businesses and consumers? 
Interstate businesses, whether they are a shop front or based online selling to the South Australian marketplace must comply with the requirements of the regulations. 
I sell nitrous oxide online, am I required to display the notice outlined in the regulations on my website? 
No, online sellers are not required to display the notice. However, online sellers must comply with the bans on selling or supplying to people under 18 years of age and must not sell nitrous oxide between the hours of 10pm and 5am. 
Do these changes apply to all nitrous oxide cylinders? 
For further clarification about how the regulations apply to individual business, you are encouraged to seek independent legal advice.

Generally speaking however, the restrictions are not dependent on the size of the canisters being sold. Rather the restrictions apply to the sale and supply of the substance nitrous oxide (as defined by the Controlled Substances (Poisons) Regulations 2011). 

Several of the restrictions apply to sale by retail at retail outlets, and so would not be relevant to businesses that only undertake wholesale activities. For example, the requirements to store canisters in an area that is inaccessible to members of the public would have no application to a business that does not have any retail outlets open to the public. 

The restrictions on selling or supplying to persons under 18 years of age do apply to all types of sales and supply, as well as the restrictions on sales between 10pm and 5am. However, we anticipate these restrictions will have minimal impact on businesses that are open during regular business hours only and those that have limited contact with persons under 18 years. 
How can I report businesses that are doing the wrong thing? 
Consumers who observe retail stores or online sellers doing the following can report what they have seen by calling South Australia Police on 131 444: 

selling or supplying nitrous oxide to minors and/or failing to check identification for the purchaser's age
  • selling or supplying nitrous oxide to minors and/or failing to check identification for the purchaser's age
  • failing to display a notice on the premises that details the offence of selling or supplying nitrous oxide to under 18s
  • selling nitrous oxide between the hours of 10pm and 5am
  • visibly displaying nitrous oxide or making it accessible to members of the public. 
Where can I access health information in relation to nitrous oxide?
Health information on volatile substances (including nitrous oxide) is available on the SA Health website