Governor Kathy Hochul sanctioned a new state law Thursday, restricting the sale of non-prescription diet pills and weight-loss supplements to those under 18. With this move, New York becomes one of the pioneering states, placing stringent checks on the expanding weight-loss industry from targeting minors. The legislation mandates businesses, inclusive of online retailers, to instate age-verification protocols to deter the sale of these products to children. Violators could face repercussions like a court-mandated sales pause until age-verification is established and fines reaching up to $500 per infringement. Other states, like Colorado, have already instituted similar bans, with California eyeing comparable restrictions.
The concerns propelling this legislation are multi-faceted. An alarming 20 million women and 10 million men in the U.S. grapple with some form of eating disorder. New York alone witnesses over 1.7 million of its residents — nearly 9% — confronting these challenges at some juncture in their lives. These disorders exact a hefty toll, both emotionally and economically, costing New York an estimated $3.9 billion annually in direct medical expenses and lost productivity. Nationwide, over 10,000 fatalities annually are directly attributed to eating disorders. Added to this, some businesses have been called out for deceptive marketing practices, such as using fabricated celebrity endorsements to push diet pill sales.
While this new law curtails over-the-counter weight-loss solutions, the demand for regulated prescription anti-obesity drugs has surged. The influx of these newer medicines in the market comes with hefty price tags, often upwards of $1,000 monthly per user. Such costs have sparked debates about long-term affordability and insurance coverage. Furthermore, once commenced, these medications necessitate indefinite consumption to maintain weight loss benefits. Concurrently, recent guidelines from medical bodies, like the American Academy of Pediatrics, advocate for aggressive treatments, even suggesting medications for children as young as 12 in certain circumstances.
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