NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Should it be illegal for stores to sell certain diet products to children under 18?
A bill proposed in the city council had its first hearing Tuesday.
City Councilman Mark Levine, the chair of the city council’s health committee, says the products – which typically contain senna or saffron – pose serious health risks. He wants to ban stores from selling them to minors.
“There is an ingrained problem in society where we have conflated healthfulness with thinness,” Levine said. “They’re nothing more and nothing less than an intense dosage of laxatives, with all the complications that can bring.”
Complications that multiple New Yorkers testified about at his health committee hearing Tuesday. One took 3 Ballerina tea, which CBS2’s Lisa Rozner found in the tea section of a SoHo bodega.
“Consistently consuming detox in my adolescence absolutely destroyed my digestive system,” said Iman Hariri-Kia. “Over the course of two years, I was diagnosed with two chronic digestive illnesses.”
“When I was around 12, I started to gain weight and my mother gave me these detox teas to take thinking she was helping me,” said Sarah Hamel-Smith. “I was anorexic. I was bulimic. I used to pass out in school.”
The National Eating Disorders Association says nearly one million New Yorkers struggle with eating disorders.
But Dr. Myla Harrison, the assistant commissioner for the city’s Department of Health claimed, “To date, we have not received any complaints about these types of products, and do not have the expertise to assess the nutritional effects of these products.”
“They also passed the buck, though, saying eating disorders are mental illness,” said Renee Cafaro. “It’s not the same as having clinical depression. You don’t have a problem with brain chemistry and then you want to buy Skinny Fit tea… You are brainwashed by this stuff. It is the products that are to blame. It is the marketing to blame.”
The health committee plans to vote on the bill sometime in the next months and then it’s expected to go before the full city council for consideration.
Only one of the diet product companies got back to us for comment.
3 Ballerina Tea says it does not support children using the product without consulting a physician first, adding any additional legislation is not necessary:
“We believe that our current label supports guidance from a physician if anyone under the age of 18 is considering using our product. The label states, in relevant part: ‘Consult your physician prior to use if you are pregnant or nursing, children under the age of 18, individuals taking medicine(s), or if you have a health condition.’ We do not support children using our product without consulting a physician, nor do we support laws that interfere in that relationship unnecessarily. Further, we encourage everyone to speak to a doctor if they have any questions about our product or Cassia Angustifolia (Senna),” said a spokesperson for TG Corp and 3 Ballerina Herbal Teas.