Indiana one of many states aiming to limit tanning

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Lawmakers' efforts to crack down on the use of Indiana tanning beds this year are part of a national push to limit young people's exposure to risks that include skin cancer.

Indiana is one of 33 states that regulate tanning. The state currently requires parental or guardian supervision for anyone under 16 to use tanning beds. Those ages 17 and 18 need permission to go to a tanning salon alone.

That could change under a bill that passed the House last week and is headed back to the Senate for one last review.

This year's bill from Sen. Patricia Miller, R-Indianapolis, represents a compromise after a measure last year that would have barred everyone under age 18 from using tanning salons failed. Miller's current bill limits the ban to those under 16.

Supporters say the measure is a good first step, while opponents say it goes too far.

"We're headed in the right direction," said Dr. Lawrence Mark, an Indiana University skin cancer expert. "This is one step getting the foot in the door."

Nearly every state has moved to restrict or ban tanning among minors since California and then Vermont banned tanning for anyone under 18 in 2012.

Lawmakers in Iowa, where a ban failed last year, are taking another run at it this year.

"People are paying a little bit more attention to it," said Iowa Rep. Lisa Heddens, a Democrat. "There's more awareness out there, so it's getting a little more traction because of the issue."

Heddens' bill hasn't made it to a full House vote this year, although a similar bill is under Senate review. She says lawmakers are wary of placing more regulations on businesses.

Marcy DeShong, who owns several Bronze Bay Tanning salons in Indiana, said she isn't worried about losing business because most of her customers are 17 or 18.

DeShong and national lobbyists such as the Indoor Tanning Association have other issues with the bill, including concerns that it steps on parents' toes.

Others say the bill doesn't go far enough and likely won't be as effective if it only targets tanners younger than 16.

"They call it progress because something's done versus nothing," said Amanda Estridge, director of Indiana government relations for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network. "Moving a weak law forward, we see that as unjust."

Indianapolis resident Deena Albin, 41, wants to ban tanning for anyone under 21. She was diagnosed with skin cancer when she was pregnant with her second child, five months after she ramped up her tanning routine to get the perfect glow for her wedding.

"Kids that who are 16 or 18 really just don't have that thought process," said Albin, who is now cancer-free. "Some parents just do whatever their kids want them to do so they can be cool."

Criticism from both sides means lawmakers working to pass the ban must walk a careful line between pressing regulations too far and not pressing hard enough.

"I, for one am not someone who likes to limit people's choices," said bill sponsor Rep. Dennis Zent, R-Angola. But "we need regulation that's proven to be effective."


  • Tanning is a personal choice
    Let's be clear, UV overexposure is when the risk of skin cancer increases not moderate, non burning UV exposure. Professional salons do everything possible to prevent overexposure and sunburn. As a parent, it should be my decision about if my teen goes tanning or not. Currently, parental permission is common practice in professional salons, and that is all that should be necessary. If we ban access to a salon, where a person is limited to how long and how often they tan based on their skin type, teens will only seek out other methods to tan. Methods that will more than likely produce more sunburns and risk of skin cancer. Some teens will use home units where they can tan for as long as they want, as often as they want with no restrictions. Other teens will tan more aggressively outdoors. What the law is taking away is the ability to tan responsibly and in the safest environment. It will not decrease the risk of overexposure and skin cancer. Professional salons have safety measures in place to prevent overexposure. I think we can all agree that too much UV is bad. But how many people know that too little UV is bad too? Vitamin D deficiency is at epidemic rates in North America because we are told to avoid any and all UV. What we should be teaching is that moderation is the key to UV exposure. This law crosses a line. What is next? Banning teens from amusement parks, pools, outdoor sports? That would be absurd wouldn’t it? Well, this law is looking to prevent skin cancer by targeting an industry, and I have seen more sunburn in those kinds of places than anything that has happened in a professional tanning salon.
  • Ridiculous
    Indiana wants to "crack down" on tanning, but we want to ignore the rights of gay people and we ignore the shootings going on literally daily... the priorities here make me disgusted.
  • And No Beach!
    We need to outlaw the sun! Mr. Sun needs to stop shining on our kids. Too many harmful rays. Can't Mr. Obama help? He's the smartest man in the room.
  • No Tan Zone
    While I think tanning beds should have been out of business a long time ago, there is probably a Tanning Bed Lobby in DC that will drag this out forever. If parents have so little sense than to allow their non-adult sons and daughters to tan at all, they should also be a neglect charge in here somewhere. However, this will probably happen before they outlaw cigs and alcohol.
  • Just like cigarettes and alcohol
    Tanning is no different as a social ill. It adds no value and harms the consumer. Better to eliminate it entirely as it does not improve health but damages skin. Not a legitimate value added business and should be fully liable legally for causing skin cancer.

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