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Supplements Next to Cigarettes Behind Counters?

Supplements Next to Cigarettes Behind Counters?
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Bad supplement bills in Rhode Island, New York, California, Missouri, and Massachusetts that would severely restrict supplement access show where other states could be heading. Action Alert!

Rhode Island state senators Mike McCaffrey, Hanna Gallo, and Joshua Miller recently sought to put ALL supplements behind the counter, and only accessible by retail clerks. This is, by far, the most disastrous state-level supplement bill we at ANH have ever seen. The real concern is that other states could follow Rhode Island’s example. Several other states around the country (CA, MA, MO) are considering similar legislation for weight-loss supplements, mandating that they be placed behind store counters; New York just approved one such bill. We must send a strong message to all state legislatures to not even think about pursuing these policies. 

The hearing on the Rhode Island bill was last week. The good news is that the committee voted to hold the bill for further study, meaning it is not likely to move forward right now. Thank you to ANH members who sprang to action to help defeat this bill. But the mere fact that it was introduced and quickly scheduled for a hearing means that it has a legislative champion who cares about this policy, so it may not be delayed for long.

It is hard to imagine a more ridiculous and harmful policy than this bill. Not only does the bill mandate that all supplements be accessible only by shop clerks; it requires that stores post at every purchase counter a warning that dietary supplements are “known to cause gastrointestinal impairment, tachycardia, hypertension, myocardial infarction, stroke, severe liver injury sometimes requiring transplant or leading to death, organ failure, other serious injury, and death.”

Restricting access to supplements in this way will significantly restrict consumer choice at retail stores. The space available behind store counters is quite limited and already occupied by products like cigarettes. These limitations mean that stores will be forced to carry only products they know will make the most money, if they continue carrying the supplements at all. It also makes it nearly impossible for consumers to compare products and be discerning shoppers: if you want to check the ingredients to make sure a product doesn’t have allergens like gluten or other additives, or if you want to make sure a product has the right nutrient form (like folate vs. folic acid, for example), you would be forced to wait in line and then hold up the line to examine the products. Putting supplements behind a counter also sends a message that there is something dangerous about them, when the track record of safety for supplements tells a very different story.

The end result is that it will be much harder for consumers to access products that can benefit their health.

Additionally, there is a painful irony to the required warning for supplements in the bill: the warning lists a number of health conditions that supplements can actually help treat or prevent! We reported recently on the science supporting magnesium’s role in heart health and maintaining proper blood pressure. We also know that fish oil supplements lower the risk of heart attack and death from coronary heart disease. Micronutrient inadequacies have been linked to a number of chronic illnesses. If this bill passed, you would be warned, at the point of purchase, that supplements can cause heart problems…yet we know that supplements confer heart-protecting benefits. How does this make any sense?

Further, drugs cause side effects far more serious and far more often than supplements: why aren’t there warnings posted wherever over-the-counter drugs are sold stating they can cause death?

Unfortunately, there are concerning signals about where state policies are heading. We haven’t yet seen a similarly restrictive bill elsewhere, but New York, for example, just approved a bill that restricts access to weight-loss supplements; it is waiting to be signed by the Governor. Similar bills are being considered in California, Massachusetts, and Missouri.

According to these bills, the “weight loss” supplements that could be targeted include a broad array of products, including protein powders, hormones, like progesterone and DHEA, glandulars, and lipotropics, which may include essential nutrients like B vitamins and choline. Some proponents argue that these measures are needed to protect children from “unhealthy weight control behavior,” which are risk factors for eating disorders. This is a noble goal, but the language in these bills casts a wide net that could limit access to products that have nothing to do with weight loss. 

Once these bills become successful in some states, there is more of a chance that other states will follow suit, so we must act now to prevent further action to enact these policies.

Efforts like these represent the exact opposite of what we should be doing. As a nation, we’ve never been sicker, and we pay exorbitant prices for drugs that are dangerous and often ineffective. We should be embracing prevention with natural products that are safe, affordable, and proven to work, but these threaten the profits of Big Pharma and their cronies in government. We must send this clear message to state legislatures across the country as a prophylactic against measures like those considered by Rhode Island.

Action Alert! Scroll below to your state government and tell them NOT to restrict access to supplements like some in other states have done. Please send your message immediately.

Click your state’s link to take action on current legislation being considered by the legislature.




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