Why The Gay Community Is Upset About The Government Banning Leather Cleaner

A plan to restrict a sex aid to the same drug category as heroin and ecstasy has been slammed as "ridiculous".

Amyl nitrite is a liquid substance used and sold widely as a cleaning agent or solvent, and is also used medically in cardiac medicine, such as for treating angina. But it is also used by some for recreational purposes as an inhalant, as it can produce a brief euphoric high.

"Amyl nitrite is a vasodilator. Vasodilators are medicines that cause the blood vessels in the body to dilate and the involuntary smooth muscles to relax," according to the Alcohol and Drug Foundation.

For this reason, it is often employed as a sex aid for people who engage in anal sex, and is popular in the gay community. While it it not legal to sell amyl nitrite as an inhalant, it is still currently widely available in stores when marketed as a cleaner. But a proposal from the Therapeutic Goods Administration would see the substance classed as a schedule nine drug -- on the same level as heroin, marijuana, ecstasy and cocaine.

Amyl can be used recreationally, as an inhalant (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

"It's going to criminalise the consensual sex between adults in the privacy of our own bedrooms overnight, and that's just wrong," said Sydney man Steven Spencer, at a rally on Wednesday calling for the TGA decision to be overturned.

Spencer launched a petition asking the TGA to reconsider its plan to amend the federal Poisons Standard, which at time of writing had around 4500 signatures.

On the eve of public submissions to the decision closing, the rally at Sydney's Taylor Square in the heart of the LGBTQ-friendly Oxford Street district attracted several dozen people for a "mass Twerking to raise awareness against the TGA's plan to make Poppers illegal."

The TGA proposed to move amyl nitrites and a variety of other nitrite substances from schedule four -- 'Prescription Only Medicine or Prescription Animal Remedy' -- to schedule nine, 'Prohibited Substance', due to alleged "numerous risks of harm".

Top of the TGA's list of reasons for banning amyl was its potential for "illicit use for euphoric, analgesic and muscle relaxant effects", but also listed were rare cases where prolonged use led to eye damage. An anonymous submission to the TGA led to the initial plan to ban, with the applicant claiming "misuse and abuse of 'poppers'... in the clubbing/dance scene in Australia and globally for the purposes of recreational use alongside narcotics."

A man died at Victoria's Rainbow Serpent music festival in 2017 after reportedly drinking amyl.

"Alkyl nitrites are toxic via inhalation. Toxicity includes tachycardia, hypotension, headache, flushing, dizziness, nausea, and syncope," the TGA said.

"Alkyl nitrites are sweet-smelling liquids and pose a risk to child safety through cases of accidental ingestion."

Spencer speaks at the Sydney rally

However, users say the health effects of the drug have been overblown by the TGA.

Even the ADF, while laying out a list of possible ill effects including low blood pressure and blood issues, admitted "the level of harm from the long term use of amyl nitrite is generally low" and regular use of the drug generally does not result in dependence.

Brechney at the rally

James Brechney, who organised this week's Sydney rally, agreed said the ban was ridiculous.

"[The ban] targets the queer community more than any other," he told ten daily.

"It is in a little bottle, so some people have accidentally drank it and gotten very ill. But on the whole, there's not a lot of evidence it's as bad as heroin or the other drugs it would be listed with."

Submissions to the TGA's proposal close on October 11, with a final decision to be announced at the end of November.

For more information, see the TGA's website.