Calif. Legislature passes bill restricting minors’ access to weight loss supplements

Josh Long, Associate editorial director, Natural Products Insider

August 25, 2022

4 Min Read
Calif. Legislature passes bill restricting minors’ access to weight loss supplements

The California State Legislature this week passed a bill that will restrict minors’ access to weight loss supplements or over-the-counter diet bills without a prescription, the second such bill passed in the nation.

The state Senate on Tuesday voted to pass an amended version of AB 1341, and the majority of assemblymembers concurred with the changes in a vote the following day, according to online records from the state of California.

AB 1341 also will require the state health department to post a notice, proclaiming certain dietary supplements for weight loss or OTC diet pills may contribute to death or specified health conditions.

Retailers that run afoul of the bill’s provisions would face a civil penalty of up to $1,000 for each violation.

The bill has been supported by a prominent organization fighting eating disorders called STRIPED (Strategic Training Initiative for the Prevention of Eating Disorders), based at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Boston Children’s Hospital.

"We are very encouraged to see the strong support from lawmakers in California, who showed resounding support for AB-1341, recognizing the urgent need for the state to step in to protect children from these too often dangerous and deceptive products," STRIPED Director Bryn Austin told Natural Products Insider in an email. "We hope that Gov. Newsom acts quickly to sign this important legislation into law."

Related:Trade groups now “neutral” on California bill targeting weight loss supplements

AB 1341 has received mixed reactions from industry trade groups, many but not all of whom initially opposed the legislation but are now “neutral” on it.

The Natural Products Association (NPA), which has been consistently opposed to AB 1341, called for Gov. Gavin Newsom to veto the legislation.

“The dietary supplement industry should not be the punching bag for lawmakers in California to mislead their constituents in order to score cheap political points,” Kyle Turk, director of government affairs with NPA, said in an email. “If supplements truly lead to eating disorders, FDA’s MedWatch would detect that. It has not. There is no scientific correlation between dietary supplements and eating disorders, period. Any other implication is inaccurate and irresponsible. Governor Newsom should follow the science and veto this legislation."

STRIPED's Austin previously has countered MedWatch “is not designed to capture mental health diagnoses and captures only adverse events that would be treated typically in an emergency department, like tachycardia.”

“It would be like saying you looked in the phone book to find out the names of all the planets, but they weren’t there so you conclude the planets don’t exist,” Austin said in an email.

Related:Industry stakeholders remain worried over states' bills to restrict access to supplements

The office of Democratic Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, who spearheaded efforts in support of AB 1341, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. However, Garcia issued a statement in a press release announcing passage of AB 1341.

"We need to do more to protect our youth from the harmful effects that weight loss supplements and over-the-counter diet pills have on our youth," she said. "With easy access, our youth are subject to eating disorders and many other health implications. We need to stand up to an industry that puts profit over people.”

The legislation is now on the desk of Gov. Newsom for his signature, according to the release.

Fellow Democratic Assemblywoman Cecilia Aguiar-Curry, who also has supported AB 1341, commented on its passage in an email to Natural Products Insider. 

“AB 1341’s ban on the sale of diet pills to children under 18 years of age is a common-sense public health measure,” Aguiar-Curry said. “Alerting consumers to the health risks with signage will also make sure people make these decisions in an informed way.  It is my great hope that young people will instead learn how to live a healthy life without medication, and in consultation with their doctor. That is a goal we should continue to fight for, especially as these diet products are not properly screened by the FDA, and lead to young people developing bad relationships with food and body dysmorphia. I am proud that my colleagues have joined us in passing this bill, and hopeful it will receive Governor Newsom’s signature.”

Dr. Jason Nagata, assistant professor at University of California San Francisco, said in Garcia's news release: “Youth who use over-the-counter diet pills are six times more likely to be diagnosed with an eating disorder compared to nonusers. Diet pills, weight loss supplements and eating disorders affect youth of all races, genders, sexual orientations, sizes and socio-economic backgrounds."

Several other bills introduced in state legislatures across the U.S. would restrict access to certain dietary supplements, but few of them have progressed very far. A bill in New York was passed by both chambers, but as of June when the legislative session ended, it still had not been delivered to Gov. Kathy Hochul. 

Editor's note: This story previously erroneously reported that California is the first state legislature in the nation to pass a bill restricting access to certain dietary supplements. The New York Legislature was actually the first after the state Senate in March voted to restrict the sale to minors of OTC diet pills and dietary supplements for weight loss or muscle building. This article also was updated with additional comments from Assemblywoman Cecilia Aguiar-Curry.

About the Author(s)

Josh Long

Associate editorial director, Natural Products Insider, Informa Markets Health and Nutrition

Josh Long directs the online news, feature and op-ed coverage at Natural Products Insider, which targets the health and wellness industry. He has been reporting on developments in the dietary supplement industry for over a decade, with a focus on regulatory issues, including at the Food and Drug Administration.

He has moderated and/or presented at industry trade shows, including SupplySide East, SupplySide West, Natural Products Expo West, NBJ Summit and the annual Dietary Supplement Regulatory Summit.

Connect with Josh on LinkedIn and ping him with story ideas at [email protected]

Education and previous experience

Josh majored in journalism and graduated from Arizona State University the same year "Jake the Snake" Plummer led the Sun Devils to the Rose Bowl against the Ohio State Buckeyes. He also holds a J.D. from the University of Wyoming College of Law, was admitted in 2008 to practice law in the state of Colorado and spent a year clerking for a state district court judge.

Over more than a quarter century, he’s written on various topics for newspapers and business-to-business publications – from the Yavapai in Arizona and a controversial plan for a nuclear-waste incinerator in Idaho to nuanced issues, including FDA enforcement of the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 (DSHEA).

Since the late 1990s, his articles have been published in a variety of media, including but not limited to, the Cape Cod Times (in Massachusetts), Sedona Red Rock News (in Arizona), Denver Post (in Colorado), Casper Star-Tribune (in Wyoming), now-defunct Jackson Hole Guide (in Wyoming), Colorado Lawyer (published by the Colorado Bar Association) and Nutrition Business Journal.

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