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It’s gas, gas, gas.

A group of hecklers brazenly sell laughing gas balloons outside the popular Brooklyn Steel music venue in East Williamsburg amid growing concerns about drug abuse, especially among teenagers.

“You’re on a very high-intensity psychoactive drug, and this is a dissociative drug. It’s a good way to relax,” explained barman Tai, 32, who was inhaling blue balloon gas. “These guys will probably… make a killing.”

Laughing gas, or nitrous oxide, is an uncontrolled substance available for purchase, although selling or using the drug to get high is a misdemeanor. In 2020, there was a 33 percent increase among 8th graders using inhalants, which include nitrous oxide. The following year, state lawmakers banned the sale of whipped cream cartridges containing the substance to anyone under 21.

Derek and Lauren suck laughing gas from balloons in Brooklyn.
Stefano Giovannini

“I was really disturbed when I found them in the piles in the neighborhood, [the cartridges] were neon green or pink,” said state Sen. Joseph Adabbo Jr., the bill’s sponsor. “These were marketed to minors.”

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, flatulence can be dangerous, with inhalation linked to 200 deaths a year. Excessive consumption of laughing gas can cause heart attack, fainting and loss of blood pressure. According to a case study published in September in the New England Journal of Medicine, a man was partially paralyzed for several weeks after inhaling the gas daily for months.

The Post watched seven men, some with their faces partially covered by ski masks, set up tanks filled with nitrous oxide in front of the venue’s Frost Street entrance Tuesday night, just as the dance group LCD Soundsystem was wrapping up its set. The shadowy vendors quickly blew up blue and pink balloons and began barking their wares at the sweaty crowd streaming out of the venue.

“Icy cold! A medical degree! Get your bonfires.” the vendors shouted, using another term for the drug. “Two for $10. 4 for $20”

woman sucking a balloon with her foot in the air
He laughs. Carolina K. is pushed back as she inhales nitrous oxide.
Stefano Giovannini

A man in a checkered jacket quietly forked over $20 before turning the corner to get his fix. Other concert-goers, including some who appeared to be teenagers, were sucking their balloons at the entrance to the venue, with sheepish smiles soon spreading across their faces.

“It’s intense,” said Brenden LaPierre, 41, a Denver-based cannabis wholesaler who stopped indulging in laughing gas to “hold on to every brain cell I can.”

Some of those who inspired the “hippie crack” on Tuesday night noted that tanked nitro dealers attended jam band shows like the Disco Biscuits and Phish back in the ’70s, but the vendors have moved on to other genres. .

“We were in Philadelphia [the band] It was the same deal last weekend,” said screen printer Laura Lempe, 38, throwing balloons the size of her head with double fists.

“It’s everywhere now,” added her partner Derek, 39.

man on sidewalk holding three balloons
Balloons are popular outside of Brooklyn Steel, outside of the music venue.
Stefano Giovannini

The demand for laughing gas along Frost Street is no joke, as the area literally turned into a short-lived party as groups of balloons lined the block. A security guard at Brooklyn Steel said gray market vendors started showing up outside the venue starting with LCD Soundsystem’s first 20 concerts in late 2021. He estimated they went through 100 balloons each night.

“It’s like kids with candy,” noted another employee at the event. “If it’s there, they’ll catch it.”

A man and a woman in gray hooded sweatshirts are sucking laughing gas
John Green and Rachel Greenfield, both 25, inhale laughing gas outside Brooklyn Steel.
Stefano Giovannini

The swarm of nitro dealers and users was a pain for the staff at the front bar.

“They’re young and they’re not afraid to fight you directly,” one angry bartender said of the nitro vendors.

“We’re trying to keep them out of this area, but it’s hard to do.”



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