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Should Ohio prevent kids from buying cough syrup? Lawmaker introduces bill

Published By The Columbus Dispatch on February 9, 2021
J. Kyle Koehler In The News

Kids under 18 years old would need a prescription to buy over-the-counter cough medicines like Robitussin in Ohio if a new billbecomes law. 

House Bill 9 would outlaw the sale of products containing an ingredient called dextromethorphan (cough suppressant) to minors because it causes hallucinations in large doses. 

"Most of the time, when a 13-year-old kid goes in and buys Robitussin, it's not because mom couldn't get to the store," Rep. Kyle Koehler, R-Springfield, said. 

About 1 in 4 American teenagers say they know someone who has tried "robotripping," according to a 2013 study by the Partnership for Drug Free Kids. Some teens even ingest multiple bottles in the hopes of getting high. 

That's a problem because in addition to nausea, vomiting and over-sedation, other ingredients commonly used in cough syrups (antihistamines, decongestants) can cause "fatal liver injury" in large quantities. 

"OTC cough medicine is also sometimes abused by mixing with other drugs, alcohol, and even energy drinks, which can cause additional harmful effects," according to Consumer Healthcare Products Association – a group of companies who manufacture products with dextromethorphan.

The association, which includes Robitussin, recommends restricting sales to people 18 or older. Nineteen states have done so, and Kroger already restricts the sale of cough medications. 

  "It's their own rule, and I appreciate them for that," Koehler said. "But kids are simply going to convenience stores."

It's not the first time the Springfield Republican has tried to pass this law here in Ohio, it's the third. 

"To be honest, there was a senator who was a pharmacist, who is now gone, who didn't like this bill but would never tell anyone why," Koehler said. "He chaired the committee and wouldn't let it have a vote."

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