New law prohibits minors from buying cough syrup

Senate Bill 938 is a measure that prohibits manufacturers, distributors and retailers from selling medicines containing dextromethorphan to those under 18, and requiring anyone who appears under the age of 25 to provide identification upon checkout.
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Minors won't be able to buy some cough syrup brands over the counter as a new law to limit youth substance abuse took effect Monday.

Senate Bill 938 is a measure that prohibits manufacturers, distributors and retailers from selling medicines containing dextromethorphan to those under 18, and requiring anyone who appears under the age of 25 to provide identification upon checkout.

The ingredient is a cough suppressant, and as such is used in many over-the-counter medicines, but has been misused particularly by young people aiming to get a high by either drinking cough syrup or mixing it with other substances.

Former State Rep. Doug Broxson, who will take office this week as state Senator, sponsored the bill after hearing about the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's issues with the ingredient, particularly as it related to deaths of minors. The bill passed early last year.Broxson, who will take office this week as state Senator, sponsored the bill after hearing about the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's issues with the ingredient, particularly as it related to deaths of minors. The bill passed early last year.

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"What we were concentrated on were some of the deaths and the byproducts, what some of the kids were doing in reconditioning this in a hypnagogic form," Broxson said. "We were just trying to respond to a growing concern where our youths were misusing this product, and these kids are pretty creative on doing these things."

California, Florida and Texas each saw a spike in prevalence and related issues with youth abusing the substance, Broxson said, which triggered the legislation.

It came down to the federal government essentially saying 'you fix this, or we will', he said.

"We thought the best way to do it would be to put the burden on the vendor, or on the clerk to simply get the proper ID.

"Rather than putting it behind the counter we said let the store clerk or manager take care of the issue and kind of monitor consumption at the point of sale."

Santino Colabianchi, a pharmacist with Thrift-T Drugs in Pensacola, said having worked for both smaller operations and larger chains like Walgreens and CVS in his career, it's in the larger stores that the issue comes to the fore.

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"We don't really see (misuse) here. They're going to hit the stores where they can hide behind several rows of aisles," he said. "Here we can see them and they can see us, so it's rare we see that happening here. But they'll see it all the time at places like Walmart, CVS, Walgreens, and I know I did when I've worked for those places previously where there would be empty boxes left on the shelves."

It's the same for Jackson-Pace Pharmacy, according to owner and pharmacist Steve Jackson, who said he pre-emptively keeps most similar medicines behind the counter.

"We don't see that problem of kids coming in a lot, since it's so much easier for me to police that myself than it would be somewhere bigger," he said.

Pharmacies saw a similar measure with a pseudoephedrine law back in 2011, Colabianchi said, where products such as Sudafed needed to be kept behind the counter. The ingredient is listed as a precursor to methamphetamine use, so pharmacies had the burden of adding names to a registry to keep track of where, and how much of the product, customers were buying.

Retailers, distributors and manufacturers will be held accountable for the law with a written warning in the first instance of sale to a minor and a $100 fine thereafter, according to the bill's verbiage.

Anyone possessing or receiving a finished product containing dextromethorphan in violation of the legislation with an intent to distribute also is subject to a civil citation and fine of $100 for each violation.