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Simitian backs bill to limit sales of drugs with DXM

Proposal by Palo Alto officers would ban sales to minors of over-the-counter cough medicine containing the ingredient, which creates a high when taken in large doses

A proposal by two Palo Alto police officers to limit the sale of certain cough medicine to minors is one of four constituent-generated ideas that state Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, is introducing as part of his "Oughta be a Law" contest.

Simitian announced Thursday his selection of two new proposals for the annual contest: one aiming to improve breast-cancer detection by requiring that women get notified about the density of their breast tissue, and another one that would apply privacy laws to electronic resources in libraries.

Simitian is also reintroducing two previous winners, a 2004 proposal by Palo Alto officers Wayne Benitez and Ron Lawrence to restrict sales to minors of products containing dextromethorphan (DXM) -- an ingredient in many common over-the-counter cold medicines that can create a high when taken in large dozes.

The other reintroduced bill would create new rules to ensure accuracy of driving violations issued as a result of red-light cameras.

The bill to restrict sales to minors of drugs with DXM (which include NyQuil and Robitussin) had initially stalled in the Legislature, but Simitian noted in a statement that the climate has changed since then. The U.S. Congress and several states have introduced legislation to impose similar restrictions and the trade group Consumer Healthcare Products Association, which opposed the restriction in 2004, now supports it.

Senate Bill 514 would ban sales of any drug containing DXM to minors unless they have prescriptions.

"Ingesting too much cold medicine can produce a dangerous, life-threatening result," Simitian said in a statement. "Right now these products are cheap, easy and legal for young people to obtain.

"Prohibiting sale to a minor without a prescription will limit the opportunity for abuse."

The other reintroduced bill would require cities that use red-light cameras to create policies that enable drivers to challenge incorrectly administered tickets. The bill was proposed last year by Vera Gil, who spent two years fighting a citation for a car she said she had never driven.

The proposal to inform women about breast-tissue density was submitted by Soquel resident Amy Colton, a registered nurse and cancer survivor. Simitian cited a recent study by the Mayo Clinic that found that in women with dense breast tissue, 75 percent of the cancer is missed during a mammogram. Senate Bill 173 would require that women with dense breast tissue be informed about the value of further testing.

The library proposal, submitted by Cupertino resident Mary Minnow, would extend the libraries' existing privacy protections to electronic materials, including e-mails and online chats that take place at libraries.

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