Noah’s Law passes the state House

Published 12:00 pm Friday, March 4, 2016

Noah Smith’s family and those who believe in making caffeine pills and powders unlawful to purchase by minors, are once again rejoicing this week after the Mississippi House of Representatives passed House Bill 659, which would restrict the sale of caffeine pills and powders to adults 18 and under.

The bill passed the House in 2015, only to die in a Senate committee. The bill authors that include Lafayette County Rep. Steve Massengill and Yalobusha County Rep. Tommy Reynolds brought the bill back during the current session and it passed Wednesday.

Smith, 17, died after taking caffeine pills he bought at a local grocery store when he found himself tired from balancing working at a grocery store and being a senior in high school.

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After all, they were sold on a shelf along with medicines that he had taken throughout his 17 years whenever he had a cold or aches and pains.

HB 659 has been dubbed, “Noah’s Law” after Smith.

It passed the House with a 116 to 4 vote with two representatives abstaining.

The bill does not include highly caffeinated drinks, such as Red Bull or Monster, but only powders and pills.

The results of an autopsy confirmed that caffeine was the cause of Smith’s death on Sept. 26, 2014 when he collapsed at his Water Valley home. The cause of death was ruled cardiac dysrhythmia due to an excessive caffeine use. Smith told family members he took two caffeine pills before be collapsed. No underlying health issue was discovered during the autopsy.

The bill will now go to the Senate’s committee and hopefully, acted on the Senate floor.

Several other states are taking similar bills under consideration, and six U.S. Senators have asked the FDA to fully ban the sale of caffeine powder.

After the bill failed in the Senate committee last year, several counties in Mississippi took matters into their own hands after the Attorney General issued an opinion that referenced statutes that would authorize counties and municipalities to regulate the sale of certain caffeine products to minors.

The Oxford Board of Aldermen and the Lafayette County Board of Supervisors both voted to ban the sale of the products to minors. Store clerks must now ask for identification to prove age when someone attempts to purchase caffeine powder or pills.

Smith’s mother, Jennifer Westmoreland, says while she appreciates the cities and counties who have adopted Noah’s Law, it isn’t enough.

“I think this is important for the state to adopt because our children need to be protected from this kind of stuff and the only way counties and cities will pass an ordinance is if it is brought before them and there are a lot of counties in Mississippi,” she said. “And then some will not pass it because they are business owners themselves and don’t want their business affected. If done on a state level, it would be for every county and city state wide.”