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Laws Against Teen Tanning Ineffective

December 8, 2008

A new study has discovered that although states have tried to keep teens away from dangerous levels of tanning bed use, regulations appear to be ineffective, likely because of lack of enforcement.

“Basically, these are businesses that are exposing teenagers to carcinogens,” said Dr. Jeffrey Sosman, a melanoma researcher at Vanderbilt University, who was not involved with the study.

Some 20 states have launched laws to force minors to cut back on their use of indoor tanning booths, according to Vilma Cokkinides, an American Cancer Society researcher who was one of the study’s authors.

The tanning business is big in the U.S., with about 30 million Americans frequenting some of the nation’s 25,000 businesses, according to the Indoor Tanning Association, which supports proper use of tanning beds to improve one’s health.

Meanwhile, the rate of melanoma has been steadily increasing in the United States. Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer and has been linked to childhood sunburns.

It’s not clear to what extent indoor tanning has played a role in that trend, but people who start indoor tanning when they’re young have a higher risk of melanoma, scientists say.

Researchers conducted surveys via telephone of more than 1,100 minors between the ages of 11 and 18 in 1998 and 2004 in the 48 continental states. As of 1998, eight of those states had new or fairly new laws to restrict minors’ access to indoor tanning.

In those eight states, researchers noted no change in the percentage of indoor tanning booth use. About 8 percent of youths used indoor tanning in both 1998 and 2004.

In another study, published in October, researchers found that one-third of health officials in states with indoor tanning laws said they did not inspect tanning parlors, while another third inspected less than once a year.

The most recent study was published in Cancer, a journal of the American Cancer Society and was funded by Neutrogena Corp., a Los Angeles-based manufacturer of skin care products.

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