A SAFETY campaign warning of the danger of nitrous oxide, better known as laughing gas, has been launched in the Dudley borough.

Dudley Council and West Midlands Police have teamed up to raise awareness of the dangers of the potentially fatal psychoactive drug.

The campaign comes as cannisters used to take the drugs are increasingly being found in parks around the borough.

The drug, which is usually inhaled through a balloon from a cannister, can slow down a person's brain and body’s responses. If too much is inhaled it can lead to unconsciousness and in some cases can be fatal.

Residents are now being encouraged to report places where the drug is being taken so authorities can respond.

Councillor Laura Taylor, cabinet member responsible for community safety, said: "The increased use of nitrous oxide within our communities is a huge concern. We believe most of the people taking this drug are youngsters and have little or no idea what the potentially fatal consequences of this drug are.

"We want to reach out to young people, to educate them and help them realise that it’s ok to say no to drugs."

Councillor Nicholas Barlow, cabinet member for health and adult social care, said the drug is "no laughing matter".

He said: "As part of this campaign I would appeal directly to parents of teenagers to talk to them as openly as they can about the serious dangers this drug poses to their health. We need them to understand that this really is no laughing matter, despite what their peers may tell them."

Police have also warned that anyone caught supplying the drug could find themselves hit with a fine or even a jail term.

Sally Bourner, Chief Superintendent, Dudley Neighbourhood Policing Unit Commander, said: "As well as the life-threatening consequences of this drug, there are criminal ones too. Nitrous oxide is covered by the Psychoactive Substances Act, which means it’s illegal to supply it for its psychoactive effects.

"Someone could face up to seven years in prison or a hefty fine if they are found to be supplying this drug. As with any drug, it is just not worth the risk. Being sensible may not always seem like the fun option but it’s certainly the wisest."

People can report canisters or those illegally selling nitrous oxide to Dudley Council by calling Dudley Council Plus on 0300 555 2345.