Thu, Sep 27, 2012 - Page 5 News List

Event host probed for laughing gas

NO LAUGHING MATTER:The organizer held a fan meeting for a South Korean actor where it allegedly offered fans nitrous oxide, which, if misused, could cause death

By Chiu Shao-wen, Ho Ching-hsien and Stacy Hsu  /  Staff reporters, with staff writer

Allegations made against an events organizer of inviting attendees of a fan meeting of a South Korean actor to inhale nitrous oxide — commonly known as laughing gas — to liven up the event could result in a fine of up to NT$150,000 (US$5,070) if proven to be true, the Taipei City Government’s Department of Health said.

The department said it has launched an investigation after receiving complaints that fans at a publicity event in Taipei earlier this month for actor Park Yu-chun, who starred in the South Korean drama Rooftop Prince, were invited to “try out” laughing gas because it could “give [them] different sensations and distort sounds” to liven up the atmosphere.

“The so-called laughing gas is commonly used as a general anesthetic in medical procedures. Only agents issued a drug permit by the department are allowed to import, manufacture and peddle such medication,” the department’s Food and Drug Division director Chen Li-chi (陳立奇) said.

The gas is listed as a prescription drug and so cannot be bought without a doctor’s prescription, Chen said, adding that its improper use could lead to a number of side effects, such as nerve damage in the peripheral nervous system and difficulty walking.

There have been cases in which people who inhaled laughing gas recreationally at parties later developed severe complications or even died, he said.

“For a [medicine] distributor to help create marketing stunts by providing laughing gas [to the hosts of an event] would not only be inappropriate, but would also constitute a violation of the Pharmaceutical Affairs Act (藥事法),” Chen said.

Dismissing the allegations, the organizers maintained that they had used “ordinary air” instead of actual laughing gas while recreating a scene from Rooftop Prince at the fan meet.

Agents that sell nitrous oxide for human consumption without a health department permit or that inappropriately distribute the inhalant could be liable for a maximum fine of NT$150,000, Chen said.

In related news, the department is also preparing to step up inspections of drug distribution channels with the aim of curbing the unauthorized manufacturing or importation of nitrous oxide for medical purposes, which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a fine of up to NT$10 million.

People caught engaging in the unauthorized sale of the drug are also susceptible to a maximum jail term of seven years and a fine of up to NT$5 million.

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