Bill Seeks To Ban Sales To Teenagers

Monday, February 12th 2007, 7:36 pm
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ A bill passed by a Senate committee on Monday seeks to deter teenagers from getting high on a compound found in some cough-syrup medicine.

The measure, introduced by Sen. Charlie Laster, D-Shawnee, would ban the sale of cough medicine containing dextromethorpan, also known as DXM, to anyone under the age of 18.

It was approved by the Senate Business and Labor Committee and now goes to the Senate floor for consideration.

The bill also seeks to prevent teenagers from buying cans of spray paint, which Oklahoma teens have been using as an inhalant in increasing numbers.

Laster said the bill is based on recommendations from the interim Task Force on Adolescent Substance Abuse and Misuse of Household Items.

``We found out how Oklahoma kids are able to buy large quantities of these items to get high with no legal restrictions,'' the senator said. ``This is a dangerous problem we need to address.

``The most disturbing thing is this abuse seems to be the greatest among younger children. This is not an adult problem. It is sixth, seventh and eighth-graders.''

Officials say when taken in high dosages, dextromethorpan acts as a powerful hallucinogen that caused 12,584 emergency visits in the United States in 2004.

The Oklahoma Poison Control Center says DXM abuse is on the rise in Oklahoma. Last year, 14.7 percent of all reported intentional substance-abuse cases in Oklahoma were linked to DXM, compared to 11.6 percent in 2005.

Officials say there also has been an increase in the use of spray paint by Oklahoma teenagers. In 2003, 9.9 percent of teenagers in grades nine through 12 reported using inhalants, compared to 12 percent in 2005.

Laster said his bill would make it a misdemeanor to sell such products to anyone under 18.

It also makes it illegal to sell or provide unfinished DXM to anyone other than a purchaser licensed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

It would require those possessing or selling unfinished DXM to register with the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs.

``Our number one goal is to keep Oklahoma children safe, and that means making sure our laws are updated to address these new threats to their very lives,'' Laster said. ``That means we have to redefine what we consider to be dangerous drugs _ that's what my legislation does.''

A similar bill passed the House and Senate last year but died in a joint conference committee. The bill's House author said opposition from grocers and convenience store owners doomed that measure.