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Simitian's bill to limit cough-medicine sales to minors advances

State Senate votes 37-0 to back Palo Alto lawmaker's bid to restrict sale of cough medicine with dextromethorphan

Joe Simitian's bid to ban sales of certain cough medicine to minors easily sailed through the state Senate Tuesday afternoon (May 31).

Senate Bill 514 specifically targets medicine with dextromethorphan (DXM), which produces intoxication and hallucinations when ingested in high quantities -- a practice known as "robotripping." The bill was proposed in 2004 by two Palo Alto police officers, Wayne Benitez and Ron Lawrence, as part of Simitian's annual "There Oughta Be a Law" contest.

Though the bill proved a tough sell the first time around and ultimately died in the Legislature, Simitian revived it this year. On Tuesday, the Senate approved the bill 37-0.

Simitian, D-Palo Alto, said in a statement that the idea of banning DXM sales for minors was "ahead of its time" when initially introduced. Today, he said, the problem is better understood.

He cited a report from the California Poison Control System that claims that DXM abuse calls for children younger than 17 have increased by 850 percent over the past decade, making it the most commonly reportedly type of abuse in this age group.

"Back in 2004 Officers Benitez and Lawrence were on top of an emerging problem," Simitian said in a statement. "But most of my colleagues had never heard of 'robotripping' or 'skittling,' and figured if they'd never heard of it, then it probably wasn't a problem."

Simitian also noted in his statement that the Consumer Healthcare Products Association, the California Peace Officers Association, the American College of Emergency Physicians and the California State Board of Pharmacy all support the new bill.

SB 514 would make it an infraction to sell drugs with DXM to minors unless they have a prescription.

Gennady Sheyner

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