TikTok is hosting adverts for a UK-based company that promises to deliver nitrous oxide in the form of whipped cream chargers to over-18s “within the hour.”Nitrous oxide is illegal when sold as a psychoactive drug, known as laughing gas, but is legal when sold for commercial uses – such as to make whipped cream. Bristol No 1 Cream promises speedy delivery of the canisters only between the hours of 5pm and 4am. It claims to sell boxes of 24 cream chargers for £15, and requests customers to be over 18, and show their ID.
“I don’t think social media companies should platform content which is advertising drugs for sale,” says Paul North, from the drugs reform advocacy group Volteface. “I would be pro social media companies removing that content, and instead putting up educational messages. But you’ll never stop it; TikTok can close it down, and they’ll just make five more. It’s whack-a-mole.” The ad is being geotargeted towards users in Bristol. One user, aged 19, told VICE World News: “It’s well weird. Surely TikTok couldn’t care as it’s taking their money.” At the time of writing, the ad has 493 likes and has been shared 67 times. It is currently legal to possess laughing gas in England and Wales, though possibly not for much longer; this month the Home Secretary Priti Patel asked the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs to review the drug’s possible harm. Laughing gas is used by more than half a million young people each year. “The risks to health for the vast majority of nitrous oxide users is very low,” a professor of substance use told VICE World News when the review was announced. He criticised criminalisation as having an impact on the low levels of harm, suggesting that “the number of arrests for supply has fallen.”
“Legal loopholes mean it is easy to buy nitrous oxide. Focusing on closing these loopholes would seem to me to be a more targeted means of addressing use.”Bristol No 1 Cream, then, is possibly offering TikTok users a handy loophole to access the drug. It currently holds no ads with Facebook or Twitter, which is where it also holds social accounts.One user on the TikTok ad commented: “this is a joke.” Another: “this is what I use lol.” Many simply wrote: “wtf”.The advert was removed some time after VICE World News contacted TikTok. "This advert violates our ad policy guidelines and has been removed from the platform," a spokesperson said.