The sale of all dietary supplements containing ephedra was banned Wednesday in Suffolk County under legislation described as the first of its kind in the nation.
The federal Food and Drug Administration has reports of 100 deaths among ephedra users, and Baltimore Orioles pitcher Steve Bechler recently died while using the amphetamine-like stimulant, commonly used for weight loss and body building.
“Ephedra kills,” said the ban’s sponsor, county Legislator Jon Cooper. “It should be banned, period.”
The bill was signed into law by County Executive Robert Gaffney, who called it the first such legislation in the nation. Among those at the signing were the parents of a man whose death was blamed on ephedra use in 1996, and a man whose wife died in 1998 after using a supplement with ephedra.
Last Friday, the Bush administration announced that every bottle of ephedra soon must carry warnings that the herb can cause heart attacks, strokes or death.
The Ephedra Education Council, an industry group based in Washington, had no immediate comment on the Suffolk ban.
Ephedra is banned by the NFL, the NCAA and the International Olympic Committee. After Bechler’s death, major league baseball banned its use by players with minor league contracts.
First-time violators of the Suffolk ban will receive a warning, but continued sale could lead to fines of up to $5,000.