Suffolk County lawmakers banned the sale of powdered caffeine—a product sold by online vitamin supplement companies and in some Long Island stores—to minors following recent reports of overdoses nationwide.
All eighteen members of the Democratic-controlled county legislature unanimously approved the resolution following little debate at their meeting Tuesday in Riverhead. The county health department backed the measure, which now goes to the county executive, who is anticipated to sign the bill into law.
“It’s something that’s a ticking time bomb,” Legis. William Spencer (D-Centerport), the lone doctor on the panel who co-sponsored the bill proposed by Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory (D-Amityville), said before the vote. “It’s more potent than prescription-grade medications on the market.”
A federal ban on the product has been proposed in Congress as well. The local measure comes after the Food and Drug Administration issued an advisory this summer warning the public to avoid the product, which it described as potentially lethal.
“A single teaspoon of pure caffeine is roughly equivalent to the amount in 25 cups of coffee,” the FDA warned. “Pure caffeine is a powerful stimulant and very small amounts may cause accidental overdose.”
The agency said in July that it knew of at least one teenager who died using the product.
USA Today reports that poison control officials in states across the country have also been warning the public about the hazards, including users who suffered kidney failure.
The bill would become law upon filing the New York State Office of the Secretary of State. Violators would be subject to a $500 fine for the first offense, a $1,000 fine for each subsequent violation and civil penalties. It would be enforced by the health department.
“It’s largely sold online, but there are retail shops that do sell this,” Gregory said. The legislation was billed as the first of its kind to pass nationwide.