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Barnes Bill to Prohibit Sale of Products Containing Dangerous Cough Supppressan to Minors Goes to Governor

Senator Barnes speaks on Bail Reform

 TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senator Barnes that would prohibit the sale of certain cough medicine to minors was approved today by the full Senate.

The bill, S-2436, would prohibit the sale of any product containing dextromethorphan, a cough suppressant, either directly or indirectly by an agent or employee, to a person under 18 years of age. Violators could face fines up to $750. An employee of a retail establishment who sells a product containing cough syrup to a minor could also face fines. Additionally, penalties would be imposed to the store directly and not the chain company if the retail establishment is part of a chain with two or more locations in the state.

“This drug, if abused, can cause serious harm to individuals looking to get high,” said Senator Barnes (D-Middlesex). “As a cough suppressant, this medicine contains chemicals that can produce dangerous side effects similar to illegal substances when mixed with other drinks and drugs. It is imperative that we work to reduce easy access to this medicine in order to prevent future incidents of substance abuse.”   

Under the bill, penalties would be imposed and collected by an official authorized by the law to enforce state and health codes. The official may issue a summons for a violation and execute the penalty process according to the rules of the court.

The legislation further specifies that a defense could also be made if a minor falsely represented his or her age by producing either a driver’s license or non-driver identification card issued by the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission or a similar card issued by another state, the federal government or Canada. In addition, individuals could provide a defense case if a person under the age purchasing the product provided a photographic identification issued by a county clerk, appearing to retailers and sellers as a person of legal age to buy the product.

“We must ensure the health and wellbeing of youths and adolescents who may try to consume this product without knowing the effects it can have on their bodies,” said Senator Barnes. “If we continue to allow easy access to this over-the-counter medicine, children and minors, who may use it for unintended purposes, will be at risk of serious health problems. Through this measure, we can prevent young people from buying this product while reducing the likelihood of abuse.” 

In addition, the legislation requires that penalties be paid to the treasury of the municipality where the violation occurred. The provisions of the bill do not apply to any prescription medication containing dextromethorphan that is dispensed by a pharmacist with a valid prescription.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), cough and cold medicines are commonly used by young people to get high due to ingredients that are psychoactive (mind-altering) at higher-than-recommended dosages. These products can also contain other chemicals that may be dangerous when abused. Dextromethorphan (DXM) is one of two frequently abused cough suppressant medicines. NIDA reported that medicine containing this suppressant may produce euphoria and dissociative effects or even hallucinations when taken in quantities greater than the recommended dose.

The bill was approved by a vote of 40-0. It was approved by the Assembly with a vote of 76-0 last week and now heads to the Governor’s desk.