Gas use no laughing matter
These days, it is common for young people who go to nightclubs or parties to use cannabis or nitrous oxide (laughing gas). The latter is more common since cannabis is categorized as a “class 2” illegal narcotic under the Social Order Maintenance Act (社會秩序維護法), while laughing gas is neither illegal, nor classified as a controlled drug.
Students know that they cannot be punished for using laughing gas, and this is why many have taken to using it.
However, if a person inhales too much laughing gas, creating too high a concentration of nitrous oxide in their body, they get starved of oxygen and are at risk of dying from asphyxia.
Long-term use of laughing gas can lead to numbness, tinnitus, pulmonary emphysema, pneumothorax and other serious side effects.
Despite this, some students ignore these potential hazards in order to obtain a quick high and become addicted following repeated use, causing serious damage to their bodies.
Given the dangerous nature of laughing gas, it is heartening to see that the Taoyuan City Government has announced that it plans to register nitrous oxide as a controlled substance, making it the first local government in the nation to do so.
This means that vendors in Taoyuan will have to register every purchaser’s details, and that the hotel and entertainment industries will be obliged to report evidence of usage on their premises or face punishment.
This is a positive step forward.
Additionally, the Environmental Protection Administration in July announced that it intends to categorize nitrous oxide as a controlled substance and increase the fine for improper usage to NT$10 million (US$345,985).
The agency said it would make a detailed announcement about the measure in the near future, but it seems that central and local governments are finally taking the problem of laughing gas seriously.
In the last few years there have been a steady stream of laughing gas-induced fatalities, mostly students. This indicates that the inexpensive gas has become the “soft” drug of choice for students.
Both the central and local governments must move quickly to regulate and crack down on this disturbing trend.
Their actions should be complemented by increased education on the dangers of laughing gas by schools and parents, so that students clearly understand the effect using it would have on their bodies, and distinguish between the different ways to use laughing gas, to avoid misuse that could cause a lifetime of harm.
New Taipei City
No need to panic
The government-funded influenza vaccination program was partially suspended due to shortages following a surge in demand, igniting complaints about not being able to receive the shots immediately.
Both influenza and COVID-19 are caused by a coronavirus, so some scientists believe a flu vaccination could provide some protection so that patients will not become severely ill if infected by COVID-19.
This explains why demand for the flu vaccination this year exceeded the Ministry of Health and Welfare’s expectations.
The reason the ministry changed its practice to prioritize people aged 65 or older, and children aged six months to five years, is that not all of the 6.03 million doses of government-funded vaccine have been delivered yet, and the supply cannot meet the demand.
As temperatures in the northern hemisphere are falling, the spike in COVID-19 cases in Europe and the US is causing a panic.
Many Taiwanese have visited a local clinic several times seeking a flu shot only to find that the vaccine is unavailable. This has triggered public complaints, and even borough wardens are being scolded.
However, the ministry has bought enough vaccine doses for all who are eligible to get the free shots. People only have to be patient and wait for their turn.
Those who do not want to wait can choose a self-funded vaccine — there are 1.15 million doses available.
There is no urgent need to get a shot, but the effect of “hunger marketing” drives people to wait in long lines to get a shot.
Wearing a mask and observing social distancing is the best way to prevent influenza and COVID-19. Instead of worrying about weakening immunity, it is better to keep a positive mindset and wait for the vaccine to arrive.
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