Rep. Harris legislation to curb abuse of over-the-counter cough medicines passes House


In an effort to curb abuse of over-the-counter cold and cough medications by minors, the House of Representatives passed House Bill 2163 on Monday, Feb. 17.

The measure, introduced by Rep. Paul Harris, targets a substance called Dextromethorphan(DM) – a cough suppressant commonly found in over-the-counter cold and cough medications. Consumers, usually minors, purchase large quantities of DM products in order to get a euphoric high.

“This is a public safety issue, particularly for our young people,” said Harris, R-Vancouver. “Rates of abuse of this substance have increased significantly over the last decade. There are educational resources available to parents, students, and the industry to make people more aware of the problem. However, we can reduce the abuse by addressing this issue at the point of sale.”

House Bill 2163 would prohibit the sale of non-prescription drugs containing dextromethorphan to a person under the age of 18. The penalty is a class 1 Civil Infraction for a retailer or a retailer’s employee to sell DM to a minor or for a minor to purchase a product containing DM. A retailer selling a finished drug product containing any quantity of DM must require and obtain proof of age from the purchaser before completing the sale, unless it can reasonably be presumed that the purchaser is 25 years of age or older.

Harris said the legislation will also create a level playing field to ensure that all retailers are adhering to the same process and rules. Some retail stores including Rite Aid and Wal-Mart currently have polices that require identification for purchase of medications containing DM.

The bill passed the House by a vote of 89-7. It now heads to the state Senate for further consideration.

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Washington State House Republican Communications