Ban on fake ‘bath salts’ awaits governor’s signature

A state law to bar the sale of a substance sold as bath salts that packs as much punch as cocaine or methamphetamines when abused awaits the governor’s signature.

State Sen. Joseph A. Griffo, R-47, Rome, introduced the measure in the upper house of the state Legislature. It also passed in the Assembly in the closing days of the session.

"Health professionals have agreed with my law, my fellow Senators have supported it and now the state Assembly has passed this very important measure to protect consumers from dangerous and mislabeled products," Griffo said. "This is a very narrowly constructed law that does not alter the sales of legitimate bath salts, but makes the chemicals in products wrongly labeled as bath salts controlled substances that will not be available."

The white powdery substance has been a hot seller in recent months and is blamed for suicides, violent attacks and deaths. It is most often sold in small convenience stores. The synthetic drugs produce similar effects to dangerous hallucinogens, according to law enforcement agencies and health professionals.

Though called bath salts, the drug does not contain the ingredients of traditional bath salts found in stores.

Not waiting for the state Legislature to act, state Health Commissioner Nirav Shah issued a commissioner’s order May 20 to ban the salts that are sold under names like White Lightning, Snow Leopard, Tranquility, Zoom, Ivory Wave, Red Dove and Vanilla Sky. The commissioner can order a ban in the interest of public safety.

"Despite attempts to sell these substances as harmless bath salts, the products pose a serious threat to public health, causing hallucinations, paranoia, delusions, violent behavior and suicidal thoughts among users," County Executive Anthony J. Picente Jr. said. "We urge Oneida County residents to avoid using these products and to report any retail outlets marketing them to the Oneida County Health Department."

"Because their use can result in chest pains, increased blood pressure and increased heart rate, in addition to negative psychological effects, these chemical substances pose an immediate threat to the health and safety of our young adult population," said county Director of Environmental Health Daniel W. Gilmore.

The drugs come in powder and tablet form and are ingested by snorting, injection, smoking and, occasionally, by use of an atomizer.