Bill would block minors from tanning

Virginians under age 15 would no longer be able to use indoor tanning salons under legislation moving through the General Assembly.

Tanning bed

By Allison Landry | Capital News Service

Virginians under age 15 would no longer be able to use indoor tanning salons under legislation moving through the General Assembly.

The Senate recently approved Senate Bill 1274, and the House has referred the measure to its Committee on Commerce and Labor. The bill would:

  • Forbid individuals 14 and younger “to use a tanning device at a tanning facility.”
  • Require 15-, 16- and 17-year-olds to obtain parental or guardian consent before visiting a tanning parlor. (This rule would not apply to emancipated minors – a teenager who is legally an adult because of a court order, marriage or military service.)

“The goal is to try to reduce incidents of cancer, which is a significant issue particularly for children and adolescents who use tanning beds,” said Sen. George Barker, D-Alexandria. “Tanning beds have clearly been shown to contribute to cancer, and children and adolescents are the ones that are most vulnerable to that.”

Taylor Marrow and Emma O’Brien, students at Centreville High School in Fairfax County, brought the issue to Barker’s attention and helped write the legislation. They testified before the Senate Committee on Commerce and Labor.

“Through our research, we found that tanning is not only a carcinogen, but it is also particularly damaging to children and their development,” O’Brien said.

After winning an endorsement from the committee, SB1274 was passed by the Senate on a 34-5 vote last week.

The Virginia Department of Health’s indoor tanning regulations have not been updated since 2007. A number of tanning regulation bills were introduced in the General Assembly in recent years, but none has passed.

The existing law does not explicitly restrict minors 15 and older from using a tanning salon. It says only that customers under 15 must get written permission from a parent or legal guardian every six months.

Some tanning salons opposed SB1274.

“I feel that this law is a waste of time and there are bigger things that need to be addressed,” said Dan Shorkey, owner of Fan Tan in Richmond.

Shorkey said his customer base includes mostly Virginia Commonwealth University students, not high school students. However, he said tanning salons near high schools might run into trouble because they may serve a younger demographic.

Randy Raggio, an assistant professor of marketing at the University of Richmond, said the legislation could give teenagers and their parents second thoughts about the safety of tanning.

“Anytime you attach a safety concern to a product or service, it may cause people to think twice about it,” Raggio said. “So it could have an overall effect on the demand for tanning services.”

California, Vermont, and Illinois are among states that have recently passed laws to restrict minors from visiting indoor tanning salons.

For example, California banned teens under 18 from indoor tanning. Virginia is unlikely to go that far, state officials say.

To many people, other environmental health concerns in Virginia that take precedence over tanning, said Gary Hagy, director of food and environmental health at the Virginia Department of Health.

“There is only so much you can do to protect the youth of an area,” he said. For Virginia, “indoor tanning is not as much of an environmental threat as it might be for California.”

Research into the health risks of indoor tanning has prompted states to restrict tanning, said Samantha Guild, president and founder of AIM at Melanoma, a cancer research organization.

“There are a lot more findings from scientific studies that show there is clearly a link between indoor tanning beds and melanoma and other skin cancers,” she said. “There is also a lot more public awareness about the dangers. The general public is urging that legislators bring this issue up.”

photo by Evil Erin

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