Christie signs bill banning sale of cold, cough medications to minors without a prescription

By Jim Norman The Record

TRENTON – Over-the-counter sale of a broad range of cold and cough medications to anyone under 18 years old who does not have a prescription will be prohibited under a bill Gov. Christie signed Tuesday.

The medications all contain the chemical dextromethorphan, and the new law – which takes effect on Feb. 1 next year – requires the state Department of Health to post a list of all the medications that contain it on its Web site.

Under the measure, any person who sells a product containing the chemical, also called DXM, to a minor without a prescription will be subject to a maximum civil penalty of $750.

DXM is an active ingredient in more than 120 cough and combination cold medicines, including Nyquil, Robitussin, Coricidin, Delsym, Theraflu, and Vick’s Formula 44. It can cause hallucinations, seizures and death when taken in large quantities.

“For many teens who don’t fully grasp the danger of these products, a devastating battle with addiction can begin with a seemingly routine trip to the drugstore for a cheap bottle of cough syrup,” said Assemblyman Benjie Wimberly, a Democrat from Paterson and one of the sponsors of the measure. “Requiring consumers to present proof of age before making a purchase can be a simple deterrent that saves lives.”

“Young people often don’t understand the imminent threat that the recreational misuse of DXM-containing medications presents, and their parents often don’t even realize that ‘robotripping’ is a trend,” said another sponsor, Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle, a Democrat from Englewood.

“While there’s no practical way to eliminate minors’ access to DXM entirely, this law will limit that access and hopefully prevent young people from harming themselves and other people,” Vainieri Huttle added.

Another Assembly Democrat who sponsored the measure, Shavonda Sumter of Paterson, said “DXM abuse is a devastating trend among New Jersey’s youth, and it is imperative to take action.

“This law, fundamentally, is about safeguarding the wellness of young New Jersey residents and thereby safeguarding the future of this state.”

Email: norman@northjersey.com

Editor's note: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Zicam contains DXM. It does not. The article above has been corrected.