Idaho tanning ban killed by state senate

BOISE – An Idaho Senate committee Thursday killed House-passed legislation that would have banned kids under age 16 from using tanning beds and required those ages 16 and 17 to get parental consent, because of the melanoma risk.

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

Rep. John Rusche, D-Lewiston, a retired pediatrician, 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.”

But 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, asked Skinner what percentage of her customers are under 16. About 5 percent, she replied, while those under 18 are “more like 20, 25 percent of our business.”

Skinner also objected to warning signs the bill would require to be posted. “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.”

Rusche showed the committee a sample warning sign that he made. “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,” Rusche said. “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.”

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.

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.

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