Tanning-Bed Bills Burn With Controversy

By: - April 4, 2013 12:00 am

Katie Donnar, pictured at age 18 in 2010, shows the scar from where melanoma was on the calf of her leg, in front of a tanning bed like the one she used in her home and in tanning salons. At least 29 state legislatures are debating youth tanning this session. (AP)

Talk of banning teenagers from indoor tanning beds has MaineGovernor Paul LePage seeing red.

“This is government run amok,” LePage wrote in vetoing a bill that would have madeMaine the latest state to institute a ban on indoor tanning for some teenagers,even if they have permission from their parents. “Maine parents can make theright decisions for their families.”

Teens under 18 are banned from tanning beds inCalifornia and Vermont. In New York and now in New Jersey, home ofthe famously tanned cast of MTV’s JerseyShore, the minimum age for tanning beds is 17, regardless of what a teen’sparents may say. For Texas teens under 16.5 years-old and Wisconsin teens under16, the same rule applies. Four additional states ban teens under age 14 fromusing tanning beds (see map below).

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who signed his state’slaw earlier this week, said the measure there was inspired by thetabloid-sensation “tanning mom,” Patricia Krentcil, who was accused of puttingher five-year-old daughter in a tanning bed. Krentcil, of Nutley, N.J., pleadednot guilty to charges of child endangerment and a grand jury chose not toindict her.

Despite LePage’s refusal to bar teens from tanning booths,the trend seems to be headed in the opposite direction. California, Vermont andNew York all enacted their bans in 2012, and in the current legislativesession, lawmakers in 29 states have introduced measures that would tightenrestrictions on teen tanning. Some would require parental consent, while otherswould institute outright bans, according to analysis from the NationalConference of State Legislatures.

Legislatorsare responding to research that directly links indoor tanning to skin cancer.Tanning booths deliver 10 to 15 times the UV radiation ofnatural sunlight, boosting the user’s risk of developing deadly melanoma by atleast 75 percent, according to the American Cancer Society.

Teenagegirls, the most frequent tanners, are more susceptible to melanoma than othergroups, according to the National Cancer Institute. Their research found that melanomais the most common form of cancer for young adults aged 25 to 29 years.

In response to that same research,tanning beds are also subject to an additional 10 percent tax under theAffordable Care Act. While the tax was put in place to discourage indoortanning, it hasn’t made much of a dent in demand for indoor tanning, accordingto a study from researchers at NorthwesternUniversity Feinberg School of Medicine. But according to the Indoor TanningAssociation, it’s hurt many small tanning businesses.

“These businesses have paid this unfair tax for the past twoyears and the results are in: over 3,100 tanning businesses closed; over 35,000jobs were destroyed,” according to a press releasefrom the Indoor Tanning Association. “Since the tax went into effect, weestimate million has been taken out of the pockets of consumers and mainstreet businesses and remitted to the Federal Government.”

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, whichregulates tanning beds, has not taken a formal position on the issue of teentanning, but the agency is considering modifying regulations for tanning bedsto reduce the amount of UV exposures they emit. The FDA, National CancerInstitute and other health organizations advise avoiding indoor tanningentirely.


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