A committee in the State House of Representatives in North Carolina is considering whether to prohibit persons younger than 18 years from using tanning salons. A dermatologist spoke on the topic Tuesday afternoon, Feb. 19, to legislators.
Currently, children younger than 13 in North Carolina need written prescriptions from their doctors to use tanning salon equipment. Between the ages of 14 and 17, children need only have permission from a parent.
The house members were addressed by Dr. Kelly Nelson of Duke University Medical Center. Nelson said that melanoma is increasing in woman younger than age 50 — a time when the number of tanning beds also is increasing. Exposure to higher doses of ultraviolet radiation can break down skin over time, she said.
“Melanoma can be deadly, particularly if it’s not diagnosed early,” Nelson said. “Young people really need protection and that’s what this bill is all about.”
Every year, over 61,000 people are diagnosed with melanoma. Of those, approximately 9,200 die. Melanoma can be an especially aggressive cancer if not caught in its early stages.
The committee had planned to vote this week, but a tanning industry spokesman was given the chance to address the committee before the vote was taken. The spokesman, Joseph Levy, senior vice president of Smart Tan Educational Institute, told the lawmakers that the supporters of the bill were providing wrong information.
Levy told the legislators that tanning beds produce two to three times the radiation that sunlight produces, not 15 times as they had been told by Nelson. The executive director of the American Suntanning Association, Tracie Cunningham, told readers of a news release that “consumers should have the whole picture when evaluating the risks of getting too much or too little UV exposure.” The association membership consists of 14,000 tanning salons around the country.
If the bill were passed, teens would get tan by going to unregulated equipment in homes or illegal operations, Levy said.
The legislation was recommended by the North Carolina Medical Society, the American Cancer Society, the N.C. Pediatric Society and the N.C. Child Fatality Task Force. Rep. Rob Lamme, a representative of the North Carolina Dermatology Association, said the tanning salons’ information is “faux science.” When members of the legislative committee understand the true scientific implications of using the tanning beds, the bill will make progress, he said.
Using tanning equipment is banned in California and Vermont for those younger than 18 years of age. Eight other states currently are considering such legislation.
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