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California Considering Teen Tanning Bed Ban

June 28, 2011

A new California law has been proposed that could band teens under 18 from getting into a tanning bed, according to a recent Associated Press (AP) report.

Legislators have joined lawmakers in at least 21 other states who have debated bills this year to ban or restrict tanning bed use by minors.

California already bans teens under the age of 14 from using tanning beds, and older teens need parental permission.

Senator Ted Lieu, who proposed the legislation, says the parent signatures on permission forms are often forged, and tanning salons benefit financially by looking the other way.  The bill has been approved by the Senate and faces review by the Assembly policy committee Tuesday.

Lieu says teens who make a habit out of using a tanning bed are short sighted because “you will age doing this. Your skin will look more leathery later on.”

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says exposure to UV radiation can cause skin cancer, burns, premature skin aging and eye damage.

According to the FDA, about 20 million Americans visit tanning salons every year, and 2.3 million of those are teens.

“There is no such thing as a safe tan,” according to the agency. “The increase in skin pigment, called melanin, which causes the tan color change in your skin is a sign of damage.”

The World Health Organization said in 2009 that tanning beds are “carcinogenic” and health officials should strongly consider restricting minors’ access to sunbeams.

John Overstreet, a spokesman for the Indoor Tanning Association, told AP that sunscreen sellers are behind the legislative push and that tanning beds have not been proven to cause melanoma, the most deadly type of skin cancer.

California’s bill is sponsored by the state’s dermatology association and a cancer research group called AIM at Melanoma, which lists major drug companies like Pfizer Inc. and Bristol-Meyers Squibb Co. as its sponsors.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, powerful tanning beds produce radiation levels up to “10 to 15 times higher than that of the midday sun” and frequent tanners get a level of radiation that is not found in nature.

The group said over a million cases of skin cancer were diagnosed in the U.S. last year.

AP reports that Missouri lawmakers are also considering a bill this year that would require parents to sign off on their children’s tanning, but similar measures failed in Connecticut, Nevada, South Dakota and West Virginia.

Legislators in North Carolina, Ohio and Rhode Island are considering a law that would require teens who wish to tan to have a doctor’s note.

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