For the West Virginia Press Association
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — With less than 24 hours left to communicate bills between chambers, members of the House of Delegates passed House Bill 2520, which prohibits tanning device usage for individuals under 18, for Senate review.
H.B. 2520, lead-sponsored by Del. Amy Summers, R-Taylor, would carry a fine for any tanning facility owners who allow minors to use the devices. For violators, the offense would be classified as a misdemeanor.
West Virginia Code currently allows individuals between the ages of 15 and 17 to supply written parental consent to use a tanning device. However, if passed, H.B. 2520 will prohibit anyone below the age of 18 from using a tanning device under any circumstance.
Summers said she was initially hesitant to interfere with parental rights, but as a healthcare provider and vice-chair of the Health Committee, she felt it was necessary to sponsor the legislation after reviewing data.
“I was a little surprised at the findings,” Summers said. “The American Cancer Society and the dermatologist who testified before our committee reported that using a tanning device increases the chances of certain cancers. The risks of these cancers increases significantly with a tanning device is used before the age of 25 when the skin is still developing.”
In existing text, a “tanning device” is defined as “equipment that emits radiation used for tanning of the skin.”
By law, individuals must present proof of age before using a device by means of a driver’s license or other government-issued identification that includes date of birth and a photograph.
Currently, individuals between 15 and 17 must present written consent from a parent or guardian with photographic identification of the consenting adult. The written consent is copied by the tanning facility and maintained for a year. Individuals 14 and under, however, are prohibited from using tanning devices altogether.
Summers cited the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer, which classifies more than 100 agents and mixtures, including radiation exposure from tanning beds, asbestos and rubber manufacturing, as “carcinogenic to humans.”
For Summers, the bill’s sponsorship and passage were personal.
“I suspect sometimes that parents don’t know all the facts when they’re making decisions to let their child tan, but most importantly, I don’t want any of you to endure the pain my family felt when my brother died from melanoma,” Summers said. “It’s an aggressive and deadly cancer that takes young people’s lives.”
If the bill passes into law, tanning facility owners will be fined $100 for a first-time offense and charged with a misdemeanor for allowing a minor to use a tanning device. A second offense will carry a fine between $250 and $500, and a third-time offense will carry a fine up to $1,000.
“Melanoma is the fourth most-common cancer among young men and women age 15 to 29,” Summers said. “Parents allowing their children to tan may not realize that they also are setting their child up for an early death from a horrible cancer.”
H.B. 2520 was communicated to the Senate with 80 supporting votes, 18 opposing and two abstaining votes.