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Idaho dumps restrictions on minors’ tanning-bed use

BOISE - An Idaho Senate committee killed House-passed legislation Thursday to ban kids under age 16 from using tanning beds because of the melanoma risk - Idaho’s rate is particularly high - and require those age 16 and 17 to get parental consent.

Sharee Skinner, owner of Southern Exposure Tanning Center in Nampa, called the bill “great overreach of the government,” and said, “You can moderately tan and that’s what we have people do in our salon.”

Sen. Dan Schmidt, D-Moscow, a physician, said, “This is going to hurt your business, I’m trying to understand how much, like, what percentage of your business is kids under 16?” Skinner said, “Under 16 is probably about 5 percent of our business. Under 18, more like 20, 25 percent of our business.”

Skinner also objected to warning signs the bill would require. “That’s like asking the meat counter to put by the red beef that red beef, if you eat it is going to cause you to have a heart attack … it’s going to give you cancer. … Don’t ask us to put signs up that we don’t believe are true.”

Rep. John Rusche, D-Lewiston, a retired pediatrician, showed the committee a sample warning sign, and said, “This is a perfectly legal sign - I made it on the computer. Not very expensive.”

He said, “This is about kids and tanning beds. It’s not about french fries, it’s not about red meat, it’s not about swimsuits, it’s not about being out in the sun. There is clear evidence. I have 68 studies. … The World Health Organization, the FDA, have all called for a ban on tanning beds for minors.”

Heidi Low of the American Cancer Society said 34 percent of Idaho girls have used tanning beds by age 17, and the state is “first in the nation for melanoma deaths.”

Rusche said, “We believe the role of adults is to help protect and raise children into healthy adults. This bill will lower cancer risk and cancer deaths.”

Lobbyist Erik Makrush of the Idaho Freedom Foundation told the committee, “The nanny state of government keeps getting the proverbial nose of the camel under the tent,” and said he felt the bill would restrict parents’ rights.

The bill was backed by health groups including the Idaho Medical Association, numerous Idaho dermatologists and melanoma survivors; but a tanning industry representative from Colorado disputed their arguments. Joseph Levy, executive director of the International Smart Tan Network, told the senators, “If this bill is enacted, teenagers will just use home units,” which he said are more dangerous than tanning beds in salons. “You would create a garage tanning industry.”

The three North Idaho senators on the panel split in the 5-3 vote to kill the bill, HB 486a, with Sen. Steve Vick, R-Dalton Gardens, joining the majority, while Schmidt and Sen. Joyce Broadsword, R-Sagle, opposed the move.