From Wednesday, November 8, it is illegal to possess nitrous oxide for the purpose of getting high and is now classified as a Class C drug under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.
Under the new legislation, repeat serious users could face up to two years in prison.
Meanwhile, those convicted of supplying nitrous oxide could face up to 14 years.
Chief Supt Simon Anslow, Essex Police’s lead on drugs, said the new law would help officers dealing with anti-social behaviour.
He said: “We are committed to tackling anti-social behaviour and nitrous oxide is heavily associated with wide anti-social behaviour.
“It will give officers more options when dealing with anti-social behaviour, which we know continues to be a major concern across our communities.
“It’s important that we also continue to stress that a responsibility lies with retailers to ensure they are aware of what the law says.
“They have a moral and legal duty to ensure that they’re doing everything they can when selling the product to ascertain that it is being purchased for a legitimate reason.”
He added: “We’ll take a proportionate approach to tackling those found in possession of nitrous oxide canisters.
“We’ll also consider enforcement action and that could include a penalty notice for disorder, community resolutions, cautions or prosecution.
“If someone’s in possession of a number of canisters, they could be prosecuted with intent to supply.”
It was previously reported a young man’s life was forever changed after suffering from nitrous oxide addiction costing £60,000 and left him paralysed.
Supt Naomi Edwards, Essex Police’s lead on anti-social behaviour, said: “The use of nitrous oxide – widely known as laughing gas – in public spaces is a nuisance to communities.
“Canisters are often discarded in the street and close to schools and it is one of the main contributors to youth anti-social behaviour.
“Including the significant impact this has on health, this also impacts on communities where the after effects of vomiting and nausea are left in open spaces where people want to feel safe”.