Protect kids from tanning beds’ cancer risks

The News TribuneFebruary 24, 2014 

Widespread tanning bed use has been linked to the rising rate of skin cancer.


The state of Washington doesn’t let children legally drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes or drive cars until they get a license. It’s time to take another step to protect their health by banning the use of tanning beds by those under the age of 18.

The state Senate has overwhelmingly voted to do that by passing Senate Bill 6065, which sets a fine for tanning facilities of up to $250 per violation. The House should follow suit.

A misguided amendment – which would have allowed children to tan with parental consent – was shot down. That was the right move. How could facilities ensure that the person giving permission was, in reality, the child’s parent? As a practical matter, it would be impossible to enforce.

Kids aren’t allowed to buy booze and cigarettes, even with a note from mom or dad. Why should they be able to get a procedure that has been shown to significantly increase their risk of deadly skin cancer?

The science is clear on the subject: Tanning – whether it is done naturally or in a tanning bad – increases the chance of developing skin cancer. And the earlier and darker one tans, the greater the risk. That’s why the American Academy of Dermatology and the American Cancer Society have been pushing nationwide for age restrictions on tanning bed use and why the World Health Organization classifies tanning devices as carcinogenic.

Washington would join six other states if the bill is enacted. California, Oregon, Illinois, Nevada, Texas and Vermont all ban the use of tanning beds by those under 18, and many others have restrictions on tanning by minors.

SB 6065 passed in the Senate 40-8 with bipartisan support. Although its main sponsor is Republican Sen. Curtis King of Yakima, it’s co-sponsored by Jeannie Darneille, D-Tacoma, who has been pushing the ban for several years.

Opposition to similar legislation in the past has centered on the financial hit tanning salons would take. But many in the industry have come around to viewing this as a law they can live with – perhaps recognizing the bad PR in having twentysomethings who tanned as teens giving interviews about how they’ve developed melanomas.

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