A British company is brazenly recruiting teenagers as ‘gas girls’ to sell a potentially deadly drug nicknamed ‘hippy crack’ in holiday islands across the Mediterranean, a Mail on Sunday investigation can reveal.
It is illegal to sell nitrous oxide, also known as laughing gas, for recreational use in many European countries, including Britain where it contributed to the deaths of eight people last year.
Yet Lancashire-based PlayaWay Abroad lures hundreds of young people fresh from end-of-year exams to sell ‘hippy crack’ in Spanish and Greek holiday resorts, promising recruits in an online advert that they ‘will spend most of your working hours laughing.’
Revellers looking light headed on the Malia strip known as the jungle after inhaling the laughing gas from balloons
Gas girls sit at the bar and inflate thousands of balloons every night at The R&B Bar which claimed to sell 5000 in a single night
Slumped: Young people from Britain are among those selling laughing gas balloons in Malia nightclub on the island of Crete, Greece to young English kids
But, in a dire warning that will send shivers down the spines of parents preparing to wave off teenagers heading to sun-kissed resorts to celebrate the completion of exams, medical experts said the substance can cause serious damage and even death, particularly when combined with alcohol.
Posing as a potential ‘gas girl’ recruit in the popular Cretan resort of Malia, our undercover reporter exposed PlayaWay Abroad staff who:When asked if sellers should check the age of customers, replied: ‘No, it’s Malia’; Encouraged our reporter to sell gas to customers even if they were ‘wasted’; Told her that she could sell ‘unlimited’ amounts of the gas; Claimed the law surrounding nitrous oxide was a ‘grey area’ when in fact it is illegal to sell it for recreational use.
PlayaWay, an employment agency run by 31-year-old businessman Rick Dawson from Colne, Burnley, targets young people seeking a working holiday in one of six resorts: Malia and Zante in Greece, Ayia Napa in Cyprus and Magaluf, Ibiza and Tenerife in Spain.
Under the jobs section of the firm’s website, which features photographs and videos of smiling, suntanned youngsters, is a section labelled ‘Laughing Gas Crew’ with hours from 11pm to 5am and pay from 20 to 80 euros a night. Despite the season not yet being in full flow, we found Malia’s bars and clubs rammed with teenagers as young as 16. Many were already drunk by the time they started buying balloons filled with nitrous oxide from scantily-clad ‘gas girls’.
Shouting above the deafening music, one vendor – not employed by PlayaWay – boasted of selling nine balloons to a holidaymaker who promptly inhaled them one after another. ‘It’s up to them. I don’t really care,’ she replied when asked if she had been worried.
Jodie, a 17-year-old girl from Scotland who recently finished her Highers, had already spent 100 euros on the balloons, priced at five euros for two.
‘You can do about 20 in a night and you don’t get a hangover,’ she said.
Our reporter was ‘interviewed’ by phone for the job by Dawson who showed a shameless disregard for the dangers of nitrous oxide.
Nitrous oxide is used safely in a medical context by highly trained anaesthetists in a controlled and monitored environment for its pain relief and anaesthetic properties.
However, the Royal College of Anaesthetists is concerned about the dangers of recreational use outside of a medical environment, for which there are significant immediate and longer-term risks.
When you inhale nitrous oxide it is quickly absorbed in the body. It has an instant effect on the brain resulting in euphoria, relaxation, dizziness, difficulty in thinking straight and even hallucinations.
Through its anaesthetic effect, nitrous oxide can cause unconsciousness, especially with other sedatives such as alcohol.
Without a trained person to assist and support their airway and breathing, people can die as a result of unconsciousness. If nitrous oxide is used in an enclosed space or with a plastic bag, the lack of oxygen can cause cardiac arrest and