Poppers – also known as amyl – may soon be banned in Australia after the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) supported a proposed amendment to outlaw the substance.

The interim decision would see poppers moved into the same category as heroin, making the possession, sale, or use of the inhalants a criminal offence.

According to the decision published on the TGA website, just three chiefly supportive public submissions were received over the proposal to ban poppers.

The decision also cites advice given by the Advisory Committee on Medicines Scheduling (ACMS) which stated that poppers have “numerous risks of harms with little or no therapeutic benefit.”

“Risks include illicit use for euphoric and muscle relaxant effects” – that part’s mainly about us, suggesting anal sex is an ‘illicit’ activity – with “adverse events including maculopathy and methaemoglobinaemia.”

The decision also cites survey results which state that “popper use has expanded to the community more generally – it was once associated more with the lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and/or intersex (LGBTI) community.”

Writing for the Star Observer last month, popper proponent Steve Spencer labelled the proposed changes a “war on bottoms”.

“Its role as a blood vessel dilator and muscle relaxant have enabled an entire generation of gay men – or anyone that has wanted to explore butt stuff – to comfortably have sex,” Spencer wrote.

“In their submission to amend the Poisons Standard, they reference a number of ophthalmologists and some genuine concerns they hold about impaired eyesight after long term, heavy use of poor-quality and poorly stored poppers.

“Here are a few quick tips: throw out bottles after a month or two, always refrigerate your bottle, and only buy genuine high-quality poppers, for the sake of you and any lovers you may have over.

“Simply put, there is no public health justification for banning poppers.

“Just last year the UK Parliament sought to ban poppers, however they were lucky enough to have this discussion in the open – on the floor of the House of Commons, no less – rather than the conversation being kept behind closed doors and the decision being issued by decree.”

Spencer said that any ban on amyl would be a classic example of government overreach and overregulation of people’s sex lives.

“They’ve been in our bedrooms long enough, and it’s time to let the adults decide what is best for us, it’s time for queers to decide what’s best for us.”

The interim decision is now open for public submissions, which means you have until October 11 to let the TGA know, via email submission, how this decision will affect you and the LGBTI community.

HIV prevention educator and researcher Daniel Reeders wrote a draft submission which thoughtfully and effectively rebuts the TGA’s proposal.

“Poppers have been in use for nearly five decades with very few reports of serious harm, and recent case reports describe a previously undocumented form of harm,” Reeders writes.

“This suggests the harm is the result of the reformulated products, which were only adopted due to regulatory action.”

Spencer wrote that banning poppers would only send amyl use underground, exacerbating the danger of the products.

“Banning substances, pushing them underground, and creating a class of ‘bad people’ out of innocent users of poppers is what creates harm. Regulation and education reduce harm.”

Reeders says the ban “will expose a historically marginalised, stigmatised and criminalised community to a new vulnerability to criminal prosecution.”

A public document containing messaging and information is being developed in order to inform community submissions on the topic.

If you would like to make a submission to the TGA over the decision, click here to visit their website and view instructions on how to do so.

A decision following the second round of submissions will be made on November 29.

UPDATE: Spencer has now launched a petition to be sent to the TGA. Click here to add your signature.

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