The San Bernardino County District Attorney’s office bought advertisements in three local newspapers to warn High Desert parents and retailers of potential health risks involved with ephedrine-based dietary products.
The public service announcement, placed in the Daily Press and two other regional newspapers, refers directly to recent changes in the California Health and Safety Code that make it a misdemeanor for anyone to sell “ephedrine group alkaloids” to a person under the age of 18.
“We wanted to make citizens aware,” said San Bernadino Deputy District Attorney Glenn Yabuno, “because of the obvious health risks.”
“The ads are just for (one day) and just for the three papers,” Yabuno said. “We wanted to reach the broadest possible audience. Parents and retailers might not be aware of the risks.”
Yabuno, however, would not specify what those health risks were.
“I did not study the effects of ephedrine,” he said.
Ephedrine, a synthetic and more concentrated form of a chemical obtained from the plant ephedra, is used in many dietary supplements and as a nasal and bronchial decongestant. Ephedrine gained notoriety when it was implicated in the recent death of a professional baseball player, Baltimore Orioles pitcher Steve Bechler.
Local purveyors of health foods, herbs and dietary supplements don’t see ephedrine, when taken responsibly, as an issue.
“I like people to be responsible, but the ad is going overboard,” said Don Frash Jr., general manager of BJ’s Health Foods in Victorville. “Knowledge that there are some concerns is good, but aspirin can be damaging if you take too much of it.”
According to Frash, most health food stores and pharmacies that sell ephedrine-based products aren’t heavily affected by the health code’s change in September.
“Minors who abuse the stuff just aren’t coming in here to get it,” he said. “The attention is giving herbal-source companies a black eye.”
While the Health and Safety Code changes make it a misdemeanor to furnish ephedrine group alkaloid products to minors, penalties were unclear as of Thursday.