Rhode Island Senate Looks to Pass Legislation that Would Raise Vitamin Prices, Inconvenience Consumers, and Strain Retailers

Rhode Island Senate Looks to Pass Legislation that Would Raise Vitamin Prices, Inconvenience Consumers, and Strain Retailers

Bill Would Require All Dietary Supplements to be Moved Behind the Counter, Unlike OTC Medicines

WASHINGTON – The Rhode Island State Senate is quickly advancing through the chamber S. 2613, which prohibits dietary supplements from being directly accessible to customers and mandates that only retail clerks may have access. While the bill does not regulate internet sales of dietary supplements in Rhode Island, it requires brick and mortar retailers to post a warning sign at each purchase counter communicating that dietary supplements are known to cause serious adverse events, including stroke, organ failure, and even death.  Failure to comply with this legislation would result in a fine of up to $2,000 for each infraction. The bill is currently on the agenda for a vote before the full Senate on Tuesday, May 31.

“This is a terrible idea at the worst time.  As more Americans have turned to natural products for health and wellness during the pandemic, this bill would mean higher prices and longer wait times for consumers with absolutely zero health benefits.  Retailers would be forced to move household items like multivitamins and nutrition products behind the counter or remodel their stores, and then hire more clerks when nearly everyone is struggling to find workers.  Meanwhile, OTC medicine would still be in front of the counter and many of the exact same ingredients would still be available in grocery stores, coffee and smoothie shops in the form of vitamin fortified foods and beverages.  It is unfair, unnecessary and unwise,” said Daniel Fabricant, Ph.D. president and CEO of the Natural Products Association.

“The big losers here are Rhode Island consumers and the state treasury due to lower sales tax revenue. The big winners are Connecticut store owners who will see a parade of Rhode Island shoppers looking to buy the natural products they like the way they are used to.”

Fabricant also noted that earlier promises by legislators to study the issue further were shelved and that officials did not seek industry input on such a significant legislative proposal:

“The natural products industry has been completely shut out of the conversation, which has been the antithesis of a democratic process. It’s incredibly disingenuous to say in one breath we need to study this issue more and then a month later bull-rush legislation through because the legislative session ends a month from now,” said Fabricant.

“If the Rhode Island legislative body has an ounce of integrity left, they would delay this vote to hear from the natural products industry. The FDA does not have a single datapoint that connects eating disorders to supplement use, and 80% of Americans take at least one dietary supplement as a safe, effective, and affordable way to maintain good health and augment inadequate diets. The industry is under attack at the state and federal levels. We cannot afford to sit silent if we want to ensure consumer access to natural products remains vibrant.”

For several years, NPA has been fighting against this proposal and similar ones in California, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Missouri. NPA is also engaging its grassroots network and urging the industry to join the thousands of Rhode Island health and wellness advocates to contact their elected officials and warn them of the consequences of this legislation. NPA’s grassroots campaign can be viewed here.