BOISE – Tanning beds soon may be off limits to kids in Idaho.
After two days of emotional testimony from melanoma survivors and dermatologists, a state House committee Monday approved legislation to ban minors from using tanning beds.
“Tanning in tanning beds is a known cancer-causing condition,” state Rep. John Rusche, D-Lewiston, a retired physician, told the House Health and Welfare Committee. Those who use tanning beds, he said, “might look toasty for a few days, but the downside can be a fatal cancer, and it’s totally preventable.”
The bill still would need to clear both the full House and Senate and receive the governor’s signature to become law, but the often-skeptical House committee may have been its major test.
Lawmakers heard hours of heartfelt testimony in favor of the bill, and also heard from a handful of lobbyists who opposed it.
Jerry Deckard, lobbyist for the Idaho Indoor Tanning Association, told the committee, “A 17-year-old can drive a car,” with all the risks of driving, “and yet you would not be able to get a sun tan.”
Wayne Hoffman of the Idaho Freedom Foundation told the panel that next, the government will fine parents who let their children outside without sunscreen. State Rep. Tom Loertscher, R-Iona, bristled. “Could you show me in the bill where it shows you can’t let your kids out in the sunshine?” he asked Hoffman, who responded, “Obviously that’s not in the bill, but my point is we’re finding new ways to invite government interaction with people’s families. … Parents and families should still matter.”
Heidi Low of the American Cancer Society told the panel that 34 percent of Idaho girls have used tanning beds by age 17, and the state is “first in the nation for melanoma deaths.” She said, “This bill is a step in the right direction to change this scary statistic.”
Similar bans are being debated elsewhere, including in Washington, West Virginia and Utah.
Jared Scott, a Boise native and dermatologist, told the committee that people who have been exposed to indoor tanning beds have a 75 percent increased risk of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer.
At Rusche’s request, the committee sent the bill to the full House’s amending order, where he plans to add some minor amendments requested by the Academy of Dermatologists. Committee Chair Janice McGeachin, R-Idaho Falls, asked Rusche if he’d also consider an amendment to lower the proposed $500 fine for violations.
Rusche said he would, if that’s the will of the committee; “I think what’s more important is to have a law,” he said.