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Measure Would Ban Sale of Weight-Loss Drugs to Minors

Apr 8, 2003 | South Florida Sun-Sentinel A measure banning the sale of over-the-counter weight loss products to minors cleared a Senate panel Tuesday, over the objection of retailers who say it puts an extra burden on store clerks.

The measure is needed because many of the products contain the stimulant ephedra, according to bill sponsor Sen. Gwen Margolis. Though legal, ephedra has been linked to deaths and some critics have asked the federal Food and Drug Administration to ban it.

The bill (SB 1626) would prevent people under 18 from buying any over-the-counter weight loss pills, whether they contain ephedra or not.

When she filed the bill, Margolis, D-Miami, cited the death of Baltimore Orioles pitching prospect Steve Bechler, whose heatstroke death renewed calls for a ban of ephedra, an ingredient of the weight loss drug he was taking.

The measure was approved unanimously Tuesday by the Senate Health, Aging and Long-Term Committee. It still needs approval from two more Senate committees. A House version (HB 953) is awaiting a floor vote.

John Rogers, a lobbyist for the Florida Retail Federation, said the organization has some concerns that store clerks would have to check the age of anyone who might be under 18 when they buy products that may or may not be banned under the bill.

The bill defines weight loss product as any drug marketed primarily for the purpose of causing weight loss something it might be difficult for a clerk to know.

``You're asking the retailer to stand in the shoes of the parent,'' said Rogers.

Margolis said it wouldn't be that hard to identify the products and noted that some stores are already putting warning labels on products that contain ephedra.

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