State Could Ban Cold Medicine Sales to Minors

A key ingredient, dextromethorphan, is used to get high.

Wikimedia Commons | MarkBuckawicki

Wikimedia Commons | MarkBuckawicki

The war on cold medicine continues.

State Sen. Stewart Greenleaf, a Republican who serves parts of Bucks and Montgomery counties, told colleagues this week he will sponsor a bill that bans over-the-counter sales of certain cold medicines to children under the age of 18.

The medicines — Robitussin, Tylenol Cough & Cold, and NyQuil — contain an ingredient, dextromethorphan, that helps suppress coughs. It can also help you get high.

“Unfortunately, some teens are abusing DXM by consuming these medicines in large amounts,” Greenleaf said in a Tuesday memo to colleagues, using a shorthand, DXM, to identify the drug. He said a recent study shows a third of teens use the medicine to get high.

His proposed bill would require sellers to request identification of any purchaser who appears to be 25 or younger. Stores would pay a minimum fine of $250 for the first violation, escalating to $500-a-ticket for subsequent violations. Nine states, including New Jersey, already have such legislation in place, Greenleaf said.

Restrictions on cold and allergy medicines have increased in recent years, starting with efforts to curb sales of brands that contained ephedrine and pseudoephedrine, ingredients that were also useful in the making of methamphetamines. That process, though, involved toxic chemicals and hidden-away labs. Consuming DXM, it seems, is easier: Just abuse the stuff that’s already in your medicine cabinet.

Greenleaf proposes to curb teen access to the drugs.

“Restricting access to products with DXM to minors,” he wrote, “can help in the effort to prevent teen cough medicine abuse.”