Rhode Island supplement sales bill advances in watered-down form

By Hank Schultz

- Last updated on GMT

A Rhode Island bill is aimed at restricting the sale of certain supplements to minors. ©Getty Images - KongDing Chek
A Rhode Island bill is aimed at restricting the sale of certain supplements to minors. ©Getty Images - KongDing Chek

Related tags supplement safety Dietary supplement industry

A bill to restrict some supplement sales has passed the Rhode Island State Senate by an overwhelming vote. The bill remains to be taken up by the state House before the legislature closes shop for the summer on June 30.

The bill, designated SB 2613, was introduced in early March by three Democratic State Senators.  The early version of the bill would have required certain supplements marketed for weight loss to be placed behind the counter to prevent their sale to minors.

Product sequestration provision cut from bill

The current version of the bill no longer requires that sequestration, but directs sales people to request ID from any seeking to purchase supplements, “[I]f that individual reasonably appears to the seller to be under 18 years of age.”

The supplements subject to the bill’s provisions are now identified as:

“(1) A dietary supplement containing an ephedrine group alkaloid.

(2) A dietary supplement containing any of the following:

(A) Androstanedoil.

(B) Androstanedione.

 (C) Androstenedione.

(D) Noradrostenediol.

(E) Norandrostenedione.

(F) Dehydroepiandrosterone.”

Stern warning, stiff fines

The amended bill still would require a warning to be posted to the effect that ,“[C]ertain over-the-counter diet pills, or dietary supplements are known to cause gastrointestinal impairment, tachycardia, hypertension, myocardial infarction, stroke, severe liver injury sometimes requiring transplant or leading to death, organ failure, other serious injury, and death.”

The approach is similar to that taken in bills introduced in California and New York.  Where it differs is in the $2,000 fines that would be levied for each violation.   At the time of the bill’s original introduction the Natural Products Association noted that this is eight times the size of the fine levied for the sale of tobacco, a known carcinogen, to a minor.  NPA had urged members to write emails and make phone calls to Rhode Island legislators on the issue.

Industry pushback has effect

The bill in its current form passed the Rhode Island Senate last week by a resounding 33 to 4 vote.  The bill now rests with the lower chamber.  If not taken up by the House before the summer recess, it would need to be resubmitted during the next session.

During the floor debate on the bill, at least one state senator mentioned having received emails on the issue, so the industry pushback seems to have had at least some effect.

Craig Muckle, communications director for the Council for Responsible Nutrition, said CRN has continued to maintain a focus on the issue.

“We have been working and continue to work with a coalition of Rhode Island business groups including the Rhode Island Retail Association and the state Chamber of Commerce, along with major and local retailers on the issue,”​ Muckle said.

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