Sex shops targeted in drug crackdown

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A nationwide clampdown on the sale of "poppers", a widely available aphrodisiac, is being launched by the Government amid concerns that the illegal substance is harmful.

As reported in The Independent last month, bottles of amyl nitrite and similar drugs face a ban following a successful court case to outlaw their sale. Earlier this month, the law was changed to make poppers, which can be used to treat angina, only available on prescription.

But the Department of Health yesterday announced that its inspectors, local authority's trading standards officer, and the police, are to target shops selling poppers, particularly in red-light districts. They are also keen to stop American manufacturers from supplying British outlets. The move follows a campaign by the Royal Pharmaceutical Society which argues that the chemicals in poppers can kill and may be linked to a type of cancer - Kaposi's sarcoma - that people with HIV sometimes develop.

The drug, which costs about pounds 4 for a small bottle contains the chemicals amyl, butyl or isobutyl nitrite. The effects of inhaling it include a euphoric rush and enhanced orgasm.

The drug is particularly popular among gay men and is available from sex shops, clubs and mail order.