COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Minors in Ohio would be banned from using tanning beds if a bill advancing through the Statehouse is signed into law.
House Bill 169 has been proposed to prohibit tanning facility employees from allowing an individual who is younger than 18 to use sun lamp tanning services, guidelines recommended by the FDA. Ohio law requires those at least 16 but younger than 18 to show written consent from a parent or guardian before using a tanning bed.
“Youth that sun tan in a commercial tanning bed are more susceptible to various types of skin cancer,” said Rep. Brett Hillyer (R-Uhrichsville), the legislation’s primary sponsor. “We already ban a number of carcinogens which include alcohol, cigarettes. … [It is] really interesting that we still allow sun tanning for minors, and this bill simply fixes that.”
Indoor tanning can increase users’ risk of developing squamous cell carcinoma by 58% and basal cell carcinoma by 24%, said Shannon Trotter, a board-certified dermatologist, during an Ohio House Health Provider Services Committee hearing for the bill.
Trotter echoed Hillyer and said governments often enact laws in the interest of educating the public and trying to preserve the health of its citizens, especially those such as minors who are easily influenced. For something that is classified as dangerous a substance as cigarettes, Trotter asked why Ohio would make an exception for ultraviolet radiation exposure from indoor tanning.
Chief Medical Offer David Cohn of Ohio State’s James Cancer Hospital testified that ultraviolet radiation causes nearly 90% of all skin cancers, affecting more than a million Americans each year and accounting for half of all diagnosed cancers.
“It is because of early risk behavior, such as artificial UVR exposure in tanning beds, that melanoma diagnosis is up 75% for individuals who begin using tanning beds in their teens or 20s,” said Cohn.
However, Joseph Levy of the American Suntanning Association said Ohio’s 498 professional suntanning businesses employing 3,958 workers are critical for teaching effective sunburn prevention to families. He argues HB 169 would not lead to a reduction in sunburns.
“If the state removes the option for parents to decide if their families can use professional tanning facilities together, we would just be driving those people into nonsalon sunbed locations without a professional operator to control your exposure time based on professional training,” Levy said. “Those units are not subject to your rules. And those units are out there and available.”
Forty-one percent of all tanning services occurs in nonsalon beds in home, gyms and other locations without a professional operator, said Jill Frank, Palm Beach Tan Ohio director of operations. HB 169 seeks to “burden our industry by overregulating, without data demonstrating any need, my business operations.” Although those under 18 do not represent the majority of business, Frank said the industry is extremely low margin, so loss of this customer base will be devastating.
More than 20 states already prohibit minors from using tanning services, including California, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, New York, Texas and West Virginia. Like current Ohio law, minors under the age of 16 are prohibited from using tanning devices in Indiana and Wisconsin, while minors under 15 are prohibited in Alabama, and those under 14 are prohibited in Georgia, Idaho, and North Dakota.