Mum of teen almost killed by laughing gas calls for tougher laws
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Cheshire mum Cathy McCann's worst nightmare almost became a haunting reality last year, when she received the call that all parents fear the most.
The teenager had complained of a swollen neck after ingesting nitrous oxide, before alerting pals to his breathlessness, later describing the feeling in his chest as being like 'popping bubble wrap'.
After confessing to the doctor and his mother that he had inhaled nitrous oxide while at the popular music festival in Manchester, he was diagnosed with a ruptured and leaking lung.
Doctors told Alex he was lucky to be alive and was able to avoid surgery by using an overnight mask to remove the trapped air around his lungs and heart.
Yesterday (8 November), the British government announced that recreational nitrous oxide is now illegal in the UK.
But following Alex's near-death experience, his mum Cathy has hit out against the new legislation, believing that the laughing gas ban won't stop youths using the drug, if the consequences are just a 'slap on the wrist'.
Cathy, 46, said she would have liked to have seen the drug recognised as a class B drug or higher, rather than a class C.
She said: "I think it is a good idea but I think nitrous oxide should have been made a class B drug or higher because what is making it a class C drug going to do. It's not going to stop kids from doing it.
"They will be getting a slap on the wrist if they are found with it and that's it. I think it [nitrous oxide] will still go on. There will be no less canisters around our area than there were last week."
The new law means that the possession of laughing gas with the intent of getting high could see repeat offenders face up to two years in jail.
Dealers and people supplying and producing the drug could also be slapped with an unlimited fine and face up to 14 years behind bars under the new law.
"I can't see people going to prison for possession of it," Cathy added. "It's the same if you're caught with cannabis on you. You just get a slap on the wrist unless you have a large amount.
"If a young person gets caught with one of those gas canisters, they won't get a prison sentence.
"They won't implement this. They would need to be caught three, four or five times [for anything to happen]. I don't think it will have a big effect."
She went on: "I'm glad about the prison sentence being brought in for the people selling nitrous oxide. I think the fine and sentence being brought in for people being found producing or supplying nitrous oxide is a good thing and agree with this.
"I think this will help save lives and will hopefully stop people selling it. It is still out there on the internet to buy and people are selling to under 18's as well."
Speaking just after her son's accident last year, the beauty therapist said the whole ordeal was terrifying and Alex vowed to never touch it again, but that some of his friends still inhale nitrous oxide.
Cathy explained: "My son has not touched laughing gas since his accident. At first, after the accident, some of his friends didn't but they are still using it now.
"It scared them [his friends] at first but now some of them still do it. [Speaking at the time] Alex said it's the worst thing he could have done. He didn't realise himself what the dangers were and he did it because all his mates were doing it.
Recalling the hospital incident, she went on: "He just came out with it and said he had balloons there and I burst into tears. I couldn't believe it, he said he hadn't had anything.
"It upsets me thinking about it, it's horrible. It could have been fatal. It could have killed him."