A majority of the NC House voted on March 20 in favor of legislation barring children under the age of 18 from entering a tanning bed with or without parental consent.
The house voted 94-22 in favor of the legislation, which will send it on to be voted by the Senate.
The American Cancer Society, medical advocates and child safety advocates have been strong supporters of the legislation claiming that children under 18 are not mature enough to make decisions regarding exposing themselves to high doses of ultraviolet radiation.
“We have the proven research to stand behind this decision, and skin cancer rates have skyrocketed more in younger generations than ever before,” said Allison Reeves, community manager for the south Atlantic Division of the American Cancer Society (ACS). “The incidences of melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer, have risen tremendously in youth and young adults who have used tanning beds.”
Reeves said that this effort is similar to the effort that led to the banning of smoking in restaurants, bars and other public places and healthier school lunches.
The legislation would make it illegal for children under the age of 18 to enter a UV tanning bed without a medical prescription.
It is noted that lawmakers have the option of altering the legislation to mimic other states by making it illegal for children 14 and under to use UV tanning unless medically necessary and requiring that children ages 14 to 18 receive parental consent.
North Carolina currently requires that children under 13 are not permitted in tanning beds unless medically necessary, and ages 14 to 18 require parental consent.
While this is a large accomplishment for the ACS there are some small tanning business owners in Yadkinville that are torn about the pending legislation.
“I have mixed emotions on it,” said Billy Thomas, owner of Tanzations in Yadkinville. “I believe that it’s taking away parental rights, but then again it does need to be regulated with kids 13 and 14 years old.”
Thomas said that most of his underage customers are between the ages of 16 and 18 and tend to tan around events like homecoming and prom and then stop tanning following the event.
Reeves said that although many teenage tanners are only tanning around special events it doesn’t necessarily lessen their chances of developing melanoma.
“We have to push for this for the sake of our children,” Reeves said. “They should be 18 years old and be able to make an informed decision before getting into a tanning bed. Too many are getting in there, simply because they want to be tan for the prom, the homecoming dance, etc. We do not make these decisions lightly.”
Reeves and Thomas agree that the tanning industry has been moving toward spray tanning in the past few years to address the growing problem with skin cancer. Reeves encourages that teens and anyone wishing to have the summer glow use this method since it is reportedly much safer than UV tanning.
“The tanning industry has already begun to transition to spray on tans,” Reeves said. “They have proven to be safer and just as effective as tanning beds without the negative health consequences. Spray tans are more cost effective as well. Since the industry is already making this transition to a more effective business model, we do not anticipate a large loss of business for the tanning industry.”
Thomas said that his business is aware of this change, and he too is looking into offering the service for his customers.
“We have been looking into spray tans for this very reason,” Thomas said. “We’re debating whether we want to do an automated spray tan machine or someone who will apply the tan for the customer. We’ll probably be offering that by the end of this season.”
In the meantime Thomas says that he knows that should this legislation pass in the Senate he expects it will affect his business somewhat. He hopes that legislators will consider a lighter regulation on tanning rather than a full-scale ban.
“Maybe they could just limit how many times they can go a week because they definitely don’t need to be going every day,” Thomas said. “But at least here they can be regulated, whereas they can go to the beach and lay out in the sun for several hours at a time. I make sure that my employees get educated and certified before they work here so that they can make sure our customers are being safe with their tanning.”
Reeves said that she expects the Senate to also get behind this legislation and said that ACS volunteers have been very vocal and visible with house and congress members so they make an informed decision when they vote.
“I’m hopeful we will see the same result in the Senate,” Reeves said. “We had several volunteers attending Lobby Day in Raleigh a couple weeks ago, and they had warm receptions by those they were able to speak with. I’m hoping that was a good sign. We feel confident that the Senate will take up this issue and vote favorably on it, especially since the House showing of support was so strong.”
Reach Lindsay Craven at 679-2341 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.