27 Oct 2011

Tanning ban for minors spreads across country

Author: Zach Knapp | Filed under: Science, Health, Environment

By Zach Knapp

The big rush for the local Bowling Green tanning salon Tan Pro hits at 2 p.m. as young customers get out of school, and try to avoid loosing their summer tan to  the long, cold winter. However, keeping up the heat during these winter months may get harder for minors nationwide as restrictions on the tanning industry are beginning to appear in many states.

On Oct. 9, California became the first state to prohibit all people under the age of 18 from using tanning facilities.

Lawmakers in Ohio are trying to pass legislation that would prohibit tanning facility employees from allowing all people under the age of 18 to use the facilities’ tanning beds. The only exception that allows minors to tan, under the legislation, is having a medical prescription from a doctor.

A college student lies in the tanning bed after a long day of school. Photo by Zach Knapp

Lindsay Nelson, a Tan Pro employee,  was not surprised by the influx of limitations on tanning salons.

“I here a lot of people calling tanning the ‘new cigarette,’” Nelson Said. “The government can’t stop everyone from tanning so they’re at least going to limit who they can.”

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, Delaware, Illinois, Maine, New Hampshire and North Dakota have also previously adopted restrictions on people under the age of 14 from using tanning beds. Texas and Wisconsin have limited all people under the age of 16 and a half and 16 respectively.

Introduced on Feb. 22, 2011 by Courtney Combs, R-Ohio, and  Loraine Fende, D-Ohio, the legislation banning minors from tanning in Ohio would be the first limitation on the tanning industry in the state. The legislation is currently being reviewed by the House Health and Aging Committee, according to the Ohio Legislative Service Commission.

Current laws in Ohio do not restrict any  minors from using tanning beds. Without any law it is legal for any age group under 18 to use these services as long as consent is given by a parent.

This lack of restrictions is noticeable to Nelson, who admitted that the youngest girl to come tan at the facility was 12, and although it has never been the case during her work experience, “it is legal to bring an infant in to get a tan.”

Not all people see tanning as a major problem for minors, and do not see restricting all minors from using tanning beds as necessary.

Calmly sitting in the lobby waiting for her daughter to finish her tanning session, Suzy Gibbon is not concerned with her daughters choice. For Gibbon, the prospect of allowing her daughter to tan before a big dance or event is something that her daughter looks forward and is acceptable with moderation.

“It will only become a problem if the parent allows it to become one,” said Gibbon. “It is no different than staying out in the sun to long. People just need to be smart about it.”

For people who are not smart about tanning, doctors warn that there may be detrimental effects on the body, caused by overexposure to the UV rays emitted from the tanning beds. A physician at the Bowling Green State University Health Center, Penny Mullins, said abuse of tanning beds can lead to melenoma, the “most deadly skin cancer.” Mullin said that outbreaks of melenoma are disappointing to see because the disease is “so easily preventable” if people learn to tan safely.

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