Ohio Becomes 21st State to Adopt Age-18 Sales Law for Cough Medicine

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To combat teen abuse of over-the-counter (OTC) medicines containing the cough suppressant dextromethorphan (DXM), Ohio Governor Mike DeWine today signed into law HB 9, prohibiting the sale of DXM-containing products to minors without a prescription. The law will take effect on September 29, 2021.

Ohio’s new law comes on the heels of the 2020 National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and University of Michigan’s annual survey, Monitoring the Future, which showed a slight increase in the percentage of teens who reported abusing OTC cough medicine over the last year – 3.7 percent in 2020 – up from 2.8 percent in 2019.

“The recent survey results, combined with stress of the ongoing pandemic, underscores the importance of remaining vigilant when it comes to preventing teen substance use,” said Scott Melville, President and CEO, Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA). “In the case of OTC cough medicine, age-18 sales laws like the one signed by Governor DeWine are a proven way to prevent teen misuse, while maintaining nonprescription access for the millions of families who responsibly use products containing DXM to safely treat common cough symptoms.”

When used as directed, DXM is a safe and effective cough suppressant found in OTC cough and cold products. However, some teens report taking excessive amounts of DXM to get high, which can lead to harmful side effects.  

“CHPA thanks Governor DeWine for signing this important bill into law, as well as Representative Koehler for his tireless leadership on this issue,” said Melville. “Smart public policy and education are both vitally important to combating teen OTC cough medicine abuse. This is why CHPA has long supported state efforts to limit teen access to DXM and has worked to increase parental awareness through its StopMedicineAbuse.org campaign.

In 2012, California became the first state to prohibit sales of DXM-containing products to minors. Since then, governors from Alaska, Arizona, Delaware, Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, New Jersey, New York, Tennessee, Virginia, Washington, Nevada, Oregon, Colorado, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Texas, and Michigan have all signed similar laws.

Recognizing the important role that retailers plan in the effective implementation of state DXM age-restriction laws, CHPA launched a retailer education initiative as part of its Stop Medicine Abuse campaign, aimed at engaging parents and community members about teen abuse of OTC cough medicine. Retailers can download or order free materials for employees and consumers.

Please visit StopMedicineAbuse.org for more information about teen DXM abuse and other helpful resources for parents and community members.

The Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA), founded in 1881, is the national trade association representing the leading manufacturers and marketers of consumer healthcare products, including over-the-counter (OTC) medicines, dietary supplements, and consumer medical devices. CHPA is committed to empowering self-care by ensuring that Americans have access to products they can count on to be reliable, affordable, and convenient, while also delivering new and better ways to get and stay healthy. Visit www.chpa.org.