Rhode Island supplement sales restriction bill lapses

By Hank Schultz

- Last updated on GMT

©Getty Images - serggn
©Getty Images - serggn

Related tags Dietary supplement industry

A bill to place some restrictions on supplement sales in Rhode Island lapsed when the State Legislature went into its summer recess without voting on the measure.

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.

Bill required ID for supplement purchase

The most recent version of the bill no longer required that sequestration, but directed 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 have required 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 was similar to that taken in bills introduced in California and New York.  A common thread for all of these bills, and those introduced in other states in recent years, has been the belief that supplements marketed for weight loss and muscle building can exacerbate eating disorders and other issues such as body dysmorphia that can afflict younger consumers.  Industry stakeholders have pushed back against those ideas by citing the fact that there is little data in the medical literature to support those assertions.

Where the Rhode Island bill differed is in the $2,000 fines that would have been 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.

Lapsed bill had strong support

The watered down bill passed the Rhode Island Senate several weeks ago by a resounding 33 to 4 vote, but did not come to a vote in the lower chamber before the recess.  It will now have to be resubmitted during the next session, which will begin in January 2023.

“CRN is pleased to see that the Rhode Island House recognized the proposal passed by the Senate was overly burdensome and declined to consider it. We worked closely with a coalition of retailers and other stakeholders to ensure that this draconian approach was not enacted,”​ said Steve Mister, president and CEO of the Council for Responsible Nutrition.

Daniel Fabricant, PhD, president and CEO of NPA, noted that there seemed to be a lack of information about supplement definitions and regulations in the bill.

“The good news is that with the session ending today we have another six to 10 months to educate those lawmakers on what supplements are and how they’re regulated on the federal level.  In a lot of these bills over the counter diet pills have been lumped in with supplements,”​ he said.

Carlos I. Gutiérrez, vice president of state & local government affairs for the Consumer Healthcare Products Association, said CHPA's position on the legislation had evolved as it went through several iterations that limited the scope to certain problematical ingredients.

"CHPA was initially opposed to the bill because of broad based, unnecessary retailer restrictions for all dietary supplements on the market.  In recent weeks, however, we moved our position to neutral after the Rhode Island Senate wisely amended the legislation to be more targeted in its application,"​ he said.

"CHPA takes very seriously the rare occasions involving the misuse of weight loss supplements and diet pills by the teen population, but we also realize the critical importance of preserving the over-the-counter availability of these products for adults suffering from obesity,”​ he added.

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