The House Health & Welfare Committee has approved HB 268, the bill to ban kids under age 16 from using tanning beds at commercial salons and to require parental consent for 16- and 17-year olds; the bill now moves to the House with a recommendation that it “do pass.” Rep. John Vander Woude, R-Nampa, proposed a substitute motion to hold the bill in committee, saying, “We need to have more parental responsibility, instead of having to apply civil penalties.” But his motion got only got three votes.
Dr. Steven Mings, a Boise dermatologist, detailed the scientific research that shows a link between tanning beds and skin cancer; he said more than 100 studies show the link, though a few outliers don’t. The risk increases with exposure at a young age, he said. Several melanoma survivors who had been big tanning-bed users shared their stories, their voices fraught with emotion.
“Tanning is addictive – I became addicted,” said Lisa Winters of Boise. “I couldn’t see myself as dark as others saw me. …. I continually chased that next shade darker,” and even bought tanning memberships for her teenage daughters. “I was one of those people who became convinced the dermatology profession was exaggerating the facts, because I was the expert. … Today I’m more educated and much wiser. All I have to do is look at the large scar on my leg.” She added, “I am one of the lucky ones – I am alive today. I did not get melanoma from the sun, I got it from the tanning beds.”
Tracie Cunningham, executive director of the Nebraska-based American Suntanning Association, told the committee that she can’t believe indoor tanning causes cancer, because if it did, “we’d be out of business.” She said, “Common sense tells me that there’s not a direct relationship.”
Salon owners spoke out against the bill, including Sharee Skinner, owner of Southern Exposure Tanning Center in Nampa, who said, “In my mind, this bill ranks moderate sunbed usage right there with tobacco use and alcohol use, which I just think is abhorrent. Those things have absolutely no redeeming qualities. They are of no benefit to our bodies.”
Several committee members, including Rep. Christy Perry, R-Nampa, said licensing and regulating tanning salons might be a better solution than regulating tanning bed use. Rep. John Rusche, D-Lewiston, said, “Seriously, this legislation will save lives.”