By Positively Healthy

London 29 March 2001

"We lost on a technicality, but we won the moral argument"

The Department of Health lost its test case against the manufacturers of Poppers today, but activists and officials vowed to fight on.

Both prosecution and defence barristers agreed that inhaling Isobutyl Nitrite (the chemical name for Poppers) can cause a range of dangerous side effects, including headaches, fainting, acute psychosis, hemi-paralysis and methemoglobianemia (draining the blood of oxygen). Expert witnesses also told the court that, in a few rare cases, the drug has been responsible for sudden deaths.

Professor John Henry, who was head of the Poison's Unit at Guy's Hospital for 20 years, said that using Poppers in the way that is popular on the gay scene is extremely dangerous. Professor Henry is widely regarded as the UK's leading toxicologist.

Another expert witness, Professor Laden, added that some scientists believe Isobutyl Nitrite can cause Kaposi's Sarcoma, an AIDS-defining illness, in people who are HIV positive.

The defence simply countered that Poppers were not supposed to be inhaled! Their barrister argued that, although some gay men may "abuse" the substance by inhaling it ("just as kids abuse glue"), Poppers' primary purpose is as a "Room Odouriser".

The jury accepted this argument and therefore found that Poppers are not a medicinal product subject to control under the Medicines Act.

Cass Mann, President of Positively Healthy, the UK's only gay men's HIV charity that takes a holistic approach, responded:

"It was incredibly frustrating to hear the barrister claim that this substance is primarily used as a room odouriser (although he could not substantiate his claim in court) and that gay men merely abuse it like glue-sniffers. We all know that the product is marketed and sold as a sex drug, and it is popular precisely for that reason.

"Over a million bottles of Poppers were sold last year but I would be surprised if even one bottle was used as a Room Odouriser. The substance stinks of dirty socks for a start!

"The owners of Clone Zone were in court and listened to the evidence that gay men sniffing Poppers can suffer serious side effects, including AIDS-defining illnesses. They now have a moral duty to remove this Room Odouriser, or whatever they call it, from their shelves at once. They know how it's used and now they know the harm it can cause when it is used in that way. They should act at once, as should all businesses selling Poppers."

Further information: Positively Healthy, Richmond CVS, 1 Princes Street, Richmond, Surrey TW9 1ED, 020 8977 4411, (, Medicines Control Agency, 020 7210 5821