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Bill would limit salon tanning beds to adults
A proposal in the state Legislature would ban the use of tanning beds by anyone under 18.
Seattle Times Olympia bureau
OLYMPIA — Teenagers in Washington state would have to find other ways to get that golden glow before prom under proposed legislation that would prohibit the use of indoor tanning beds by anyone under 18.
California passed a similar bill last year, becoming the first state to ban tanning beds for all minors because of concerns over possible health hazards such as melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer.
Ten other states restrict teenagers as old as 16 from using tanning beds without permission from their parents. Nine others besides Washington are considering legislation this year that would ban all minors from tanning salons.
Washington currently has no age restrictions on indoor tanning beds. Although some tanning salons require parental consent for children, they are not required to do so by law. Under the proposal, salons would be expected to check IDs.
Dr. Sasha Kramer, a dermatologist in Olympia and the president-elect of the Washington State Dermatology Association, called the use of tanning beds "an epidemic among young girls."
She said she's seen a growing trend of "tanorexics" — girls and women who are practically addicted to tanning.
A 2010 study funded by the American Cancer Society and the National Cancer Institute found that using an indoor tanning device increased a person's risk of developing melanoma by 75 percent. For frequent users, the risk was higher, the study found.
The rate of melanoma in Washington state was about 45 out of 100,000 people in 2008, the most recent year for which figures are available, the state Department of Health reported.
John Overstreet, executive director of the Indoor Tanning Association, said the government has no business deciding whether teenagers should use tanning beds. His organization represents about 350 professional indoor tanning salons in Washington and about 18,000 nationally.
"There's no justification for excluding or restricting access of this group of people," he said. "The government doesn't need to tell parents whether their kids can get a suntan or not."
State Sen. Janéa Holmquist Newbry, R-Moses Lake, agrees.
"If parents aren't the correct arbiter, then what are we saying as a state?" said Holmquist Newbry, who voted against the bill Monday in a meeting of the Senate Committee on Labor and Commerce and Consumer Protection. The panel approved the measure.
She also said the penalties under the bill are too stiff. A tanning salon that allows minors to use its beds could face a fine of up to $2,500 per day.
"If we're trying to create private-sector jobs, I don't think this is going to help employers keep their doors open," she said.
Dr. Marc Antezana, a dermatologist at the Polyclinic in Seattle, said frequent exposure to ultraviolet light from tanning beds increases the risk of DNA damage, skin mutation and skin cancer.
He said that although it's impossible to determine a specific cause of melanoma in an individual, "it's notable when you see a patient who is in her 20s, who doesn't have a family history of melanoma but has a history of using tanning beds. Your best evidence is that the patient's exposure to indoor tanning beds is the major contributing factor."
Peter Rasmussen, 67, of Tacoma, said his "perfect little family" was destroyed when his daughter, Shelley Tomal, died of melanoma in 2003. Tomal was 34 years old.
"My wife and I lost a daughter, and her two kids lost a mother," said Rasmussen, who testified in favor of a ban.
He said his daughter started using tanning beds as a teenager only before dances and vacations, but later became a more frequent user. He said he hopes the legislation will lead to fewer people losing loved ones to melanoma.
"Kids shouldn't be exposed to something that's a known carcinogen," Rasmussen said. "From my standpoint it's a smart thing to do, to not have minors exposed to it."
Beverly Fauvelle, owner of Sun Times in West Seattle, said she supports the bill. She said she rarely lets anyone younger than 18 use her tanning beds. She said she's made some exceptions for teens before graduation ceremonies, but for only five minutes.
The proposed tanning ban, SB 6249, is sponsored by state Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, D-Seattle. An identical bill in the House, HB 2550, sponsored by Rep. Jeannie Darneille, D-Tacoma, got a hearing in the Health Care and Wellness committee, but no further action has been taken.
Stephanie Kim: 360-236-8266 or firstname.lastname@example.org