Noah’s Law dies in committee for second year

Published 12:00 pm Friday, April 29, 2016

For the second year in a row, a bill that would make it illegal to sell caffeine pills and powders to minors died in committee.

The bill also passed the House in March and went to the Senate where it died in committee after senators couldn’t agree to some suggested changes to the bill.

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

Noah 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.

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.

The bill has been dubbed “Noah’s Law” after Smith and did not include highly caffeinated drinks, such as Red Bull or Monster, but only powders and pills. Some senators wanted to take out provisions for local municipalities and counties to pass their own laws.

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.

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 last year. 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, she is disappointed in the Legislature.

“Our leaders have turned a blind eye and it’s time for the people of Mississippi to start sending these men and women home who are too comfortable voting along party lines instead of what’s right for the people of Mississippi,” Westmoreland said.