NY City Council bill would ban sale of celebrity-endorsed detox teas to minors

Legislation introduced in the New York City Council would ban the sale to minors of detox teas and appetite-suppressant lollipops endorsed on social media by celebrities like the Kardashians.

Councilman Mark Levine introduced the bill to take aim at the sale of teas and similar “get skinny fast” products, NY 1 reported on Thursday.

“We learned about the rising prevalence of these products by social media. Appetite suppressants have been around since the '80s, but it’s really Instagram, celebrity endorsers of no less fame than the Kardashians who have been pushing this,” Levine said.


The legislation would require customers to provide proof of age when purchasing these supplements. Those caught selling detox teas to minors could face a $500 fine, NY 1 reported.

The detox teas are often sold at health supplement stores and are advertised as “natural” supplements. However, they often work as laxatives and can be dangerous concoctions of herbal ingredients, experts say.

“To give someone the impression that repeated intake of laxatives is part of a health lifestyle is also highly misleading and can lead to dangerous medical effects,” Levine told NBC New York. “Even in extreme cases, fatalities.”

These kinds of supplements are not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

“We advise all consumers to talk to their doctor, pharmacist, or other healthcare professional before deciding to purchase or use a dietary supplement,” the FDA said in a statement to NY 1. “For example, some supplements might interact with medicines or other supplements.”

“Also, if claims sound too good to be true, they probably are,” the statement continued.


Most detox products include a disclaimer, but experts told the outlet that the warnings are not enough to combat the aggressive advertising campaigns online.

“Specially, young adolescent girls are extraordinarily vulnerable to false promises, to products that are going to help them achieve bodies that are possibly unrealistic and unhealthy for them,” said Sharon Akabas, director of MS in Nutrition at Columbia University. “The influence of a peer group and the social media and this false promise, if you do this quick thing you’re going to be like that person that you admire, that just sets up a perfect storm.”

Christina Grasso, an eating disorder survivor, last month accused SkinnyMe tea of using a photo of her without her permission on their Instagram page.

"As an eating disorder survivor and advocate, I am fundamentally against things such as weight loss teas," Grasso told Newsweek. "They are dangerous not only physiologically but also reinforce the outdated idea that thinner is better and at the expense of one’s health."

She added: "For such a brand to use my image to promote this product was not a great move; that said, I hope it serves as a learning experience. And we can all do better." 

SkinnyMe Tea said the post included proper credit to Grasso, but deleted it and apologized for any offense.

The Kardashian family and other celebrities have been known to advertise the so-called detox teas to their millions of followers on sponsored posts on their Instagram pages.

View this post on Instagram

#ad You guys all know I looove @flattummyco shakes. I've just restarted them (it's Day 2 today) and I’m already feeling so good. We had a huuuuge Christmas this year and between that, New Years and everything inbetween… I felt like it was impossible to fit in my regular work outs and eat healthy. But this program is giving me a kick in the right direction that I need. These meal replacement shakes are so good and they're helping me get my tummy back to flat. I’m already feeling amazing and I’m so excited for the next few weeks. Because they’re all about getting women back on track… they’ve got a 20% off sale going on right now, so if you want to start 2019 off right… trust me, you’re going to want to check them out. PS. I’m doing the chocolate program

A post shared by Kim Kardashian West (@kimkardashian) on

Khloe Kardashian originally posted an ad for meal-replacement shakes on March 20 with the caption: "Loving the way my tummy looks right now you guys!" The post has since been deleted from her page but is available on the company's account.


“The Good Place” actress Jameela Jamil called out the reality television star for hawking the product to fans in a paid advertisement.

"If you're too irresponsible to: a) own up to the fact that you have a personal trainer, nutritionist, probable chef, and a surgeon to achieve your aesthetic, rather than this laxative product... and b) tell them the side effects of this NON-FDA approved product, that most doctors are saying aren't healthy," she wrote. "Then I guess I have to."

The actress warned of side effects like cramping, stomach pains, diarrhea and dehydration.

"It's incredibly awful that this industry bullied you until you became this fixated on your appearance," she continued. "That's the media's fault. But now please don't put that back into the world and hurt other girls, the way you have been hurt."

The actress went on to create a Change.org petition calling on social media companies like Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Snapchat to stop celebrities from posting those advertisements.

Her petition had over 237,300 signatures as of Thursday.