House panel advances legislation that puts age limitations on tanning bed use

By ANDREA LANNOM

The Register-Herald

CHARLESTON, W.Va.  — The House Committee on Health and Human Resources advanced HB 2520 Tuesday, a bill that would prohibit people younger than 18 years old from using tanning beds.

Language that would have allowed teenagers to use tanning beds with written parental consent was stricken from the measure.

Min Deng, a dermatologic surgeon at West Virginia University Health Sciences Center, said tanning beds are very prevalent, exceeding the number of McDonald’s and Starbucks in many large cities.

“They’re on every street corner. They’re very prevalent,” Deng told the committee. “Multiple studies looking at surveying college students of when they use it, 90 percent said they started before college.”

Deng said the reason for banning tanning beds under the age of 18 is because she said it’s an addictive behavior.

“People who started using them from 14 to 17, … show the younger you start, the more likely you are to report having trouble quitting. It provides a sense of relaxation and makes them happier. There is an addictive behavior compared to someone older who starts,” Deng said.

There is also danger of skin cancers.

Deng said in the last month, she has treated two patients in their 30s with multiple melanomas who had a history of tanning bed use. She explained that in cases of melanoma, it metastasizes, or spreads, early.

She said there is always a risk that even if treated early, that a cell could break off and can cause problems down the road. She said statistics show that one patient dies every hour in the United States because of melanoma.

Deng also said studies have shown that states that passed legislation prohibiting minors from using tanning beds have seen usage decrease.

“You will see mortality benefits, maybe 20 to 30 years down the line,” she said.

Under the bill, the penalty for a facility allowing a minor to use a tanning bed would be a $100 fine for the first offense, a $250-$500 fine for the second offense and a $500-$1,000 fine for the third offense.

If a parent has a tanning bed at home and lets a teenager use the bed would not be a violation.

For surrounding states, counsel for the committee said Kentucky and Maryland allow parental consent under 18 years old, Pennsylvania bans under 16 years old and allows parental consent at 17, Ohio allows those under 16 to be accompanied by a parent and gives parental consent to 16-17 year-olds and Virginia’s law is parental consent for under 15 years old.

Delegate Lynne Arvon, R-Raleigh, said although she doesn’t support the use of tanning beds, she has concerns with the bill.

“My concern with the bill is every state around us has parental consent under the age of 18 and what will happen is businesses will lose customers to surrounding states,” Arvon said. “Again, I’m opposed to the use of tanning beds but it’s something that doesn’t affect the person not using the tanning bed. It’s different than cases of smoking where it affects other people around you.”

Delegate Amy Summers, R-Taylor, said the dangers of tanning devices are serious, mentioning that the World Health Organization puts them in the same category as tobacco and asbestos in terms of being carcinogenic to humans.

“We don’t allow parental consent to smoke,” she said. “We should consider not exposing tanning beds to those under the age of 18. I’m afraid parents are making decisions for children that don’t affect the parent except when they bury that child when they die from skin cancer.”

The bill will be referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary.

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