Suffolk Becomes First In America To Prohibit Sale of Controversial Stimulant
Acting swiftly in response to recent health concerns, Suffolk County Executive Robert J. Gaffney today signed historic legislation making Suffolk County the first municipality in the United States to ban the sale of products containing the controversial herbal stimulant, ephedra. The action comes just weeks after a medical examiner in Florida said that the sudden death of a Baltimore Orioles pitcher was probably linked to his use of ephedra.
According to media accounts, the Federal Food and Drug Administration has reports of at least 100 deaths linked to ephedra products, and has been under pressure from doctors for years to ban the herb. No action has been taken by the federal government on the proposal.
"This is not the first time that Suffolk County has shown the courage to be the first community in America to take action on a difficult issue," said Gaffney. "With the support of the people, our leadership in many areas, from protecting the public from tobacco-related diseases, to banning the use of cell phones while driving, is well-known across the nation."
As he signed the proposal into law, Gaffney was joined by members of the Suffolk County Legislature, local health officials, and family members of victims whose deaths have been tied to ephedra. The amphetamine-like stimulant has been linked to life threatening side effects, even when used at recommended doses, because it speeds the heart rate and constricts blood vessels. Its effects can be compounded by exercise and other stimulants, such as caffeine, and are considered especially risky for individuals who have other medical conditions, such as heart disease.
Legislator Jon Cooper, sponsor of the legislation, said, "The industry lobbyists don't want people to know this, but the simple fact is ephedra kills. With the signing into law of Suffolk County's landmark ban, the handwriting is on the wall. The days of ephedra are numbered."
Dr. Arthur Grollman, Professor of Pharmacological Sciences and Medicine at the State University of New York at Stony Brook was also in attendance. He added, "I was delighted when Legislator Cooper, the Suffolk County Legislature and County Executive Gaffney recognized that ephedra has become a public health issue and took prompt and decisive action to protect the residents of Suffolk County by banning sales of this dangerous herbal product."
Tom and Karen Schlendorf, parents of Peter Schlendorf, attended the press conference. "Our son Peter died from ingesting an herbal supplement containing ephedra seven years ago this week and finally we have a bill that addresses the dangers of ephedra," said Karen Schlendorf. "We thank Legislator Cooper and County Executive Gaffney for their courage and hope that the legislators in Albany and Washington will follow their lead."
The American Medical Association has advised people not to use ephedra, and it has been banned by the National Football League, the National Collegiate Athletic Association, the International Olympic Committee, and minor league baseball.
The new Suffolk law modifies and strengthens a law Gaffney signed in January which prohibited the sale of products containing ephedra to minors.
"Government has no greater obligation than to use its powers to protect the health of its citizens from clear risks, and that is exactly what this new law will do," said the County Executive. "Even the Secretary of Health and Human Services has questioned why anyone would use these products in light of the risks they present. That fact alone speaks volumes. There is no reason to allow the sale of ephedra products in Suffolk County."