A recommendation to outlaw amyl nitrite – poppers – has left Australia’s LGBTI community in uproar.
The Therapeutic Goods Adminstration (TGA) published an interim decision to ban poppers today (14 September). It recommended to move nitrite inhalants onto Schedule 9 of the Poisons Standard – the same schedule as heroin.
Poppers are inhaled for either recreational drug purposes or more popularly in the LGBTI community to enhance sex.
It may soon be illegal to sell, possess, use or administer poppers, with the punishment dependent on individual state laws. The public can submit their thoughts about the interim decision by email to the TGA. Submissions are open until 11 October with people urged to write in and stop the ban.
In its ruling the TGA recommended the ban because the ‘misuse and abuse’ of poppers is more widespread in ‘particular sections of the community’.
‘There is a high potential for misuse and abuse of alkyl nitrites for euphoric properties, and as sex aids due to their muscle relaxant properties,’ the decision read.
The TGA also wanted to ban poppers because Australian ophthalmologists have reported an increase in cases of maculopathies (retinal damage). Poppers allegedly caused these cases.
They don’t give a shit about us
The LGBTI community are the main users of poppers, but a 2015 study revealed a 21% jump of use among the general population in Australia. In its decision the TGA cited cited that increase as a reason to ban poppers.
LGBTI advocates argued this showed the TGA ‘don’t give a shit about us’. They said the TGA only acted on the perceived dangers of poppers after it started affecting more straight people.
‘The TGA are completely ignoring the queer experience of poppers and don’t give a shit about us, so yeah the straights are ruining it for us but the TGA also couldn’t care less about us,’ one advocate who asked not to be named told Gay Star News.
Regulate, don’t ban
Sydney-based activist, Steve Spencer, has been an outspoken voice on the issue. He said the TGA should regulate the production and access of poppers.
Regulation would allow ‘queer Australians to safely access the sexual aids we have always had a need for’. But better regulation would also lead to ‘proper public health education’.
‘The TGA can regulate a dangerous drug like Viagra, so they can regulate a substance like amyl/poppers,’ Spencer told Gay Star News.
Spencer argued the if the TGA’s decision is made permanent it would make using poppers ‘criminal overnight’.
‘This decision, if successful, will criminalise most instances of gay sex and will disproportionately affect the LGBTIQ community that has so long relied on amyl/poppers to enjoy receptive sex comfortably,’ he said.
‘We are adults that engage in consensual sex within the privacy of our own homes and the government has absolutely no place to tell us we’re criminals in doing so.’
It is possible to stop the ban
Australia could follow in the footsteps of the UK and reverse its decision to ban poppers.
In 2016, the UK government did a massive u-turn on its plan to ban poppers after several Members of Parliament revealed they regularly used them.