Mass. Tightening Tanning Regulations for Teens

Following other states lead, Massachusetts is advancing legislation that tightens indoor tanning regulations for teens. The Massachusetts House advanced the bill,An Act Further Regulating Tanning Facilities, without debate during an informal session on Tuesday.

The proposed bill essentially bans indoor tanning for teens under 16 years of age and requires teens 16 and 17 years old to be accompanied by a parent or guardian. The bill also prohibits tanning salons from employing minors.

I say “essentially” bans because the bill does allow teens under 16 years of age to tan if they have a doctor’s prescription. But considering all the health risks associated with tanning, it’s safe to say UV radiation isn’t a prescription dermatologists just hand out.

Indoor tanning increases melanoma risk, the deadliest form of skin cancer by 74 percent, research shows. Tanning beds, booths, and sunlamps are also proven to increase risk of other skin cancers including basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma and eye cancers. Despite this risk, many Americans, especially teens, are still opting to tan. Nearly 30 percent of white female high school students use tanning beds and 17 percent use them regularly. Thirty-two percent of women ages 18—21 years old and 30 percent of women ages 22 -25 years old use indoor tanning devices, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

In a call to action on skin cancer last week, acting US Surgeon General Dr. Boris D Lushiak urged states to develop policy and legislation restricting indoor tanning for teens:

“Each day, thousands of teens are exposing themselves, unprotected, to harmful UV radiation from tanning beds, but only 10 states currently have laws in place to prevent this practice for youth younger than age 18 years. Together, we must communicate the risks in a clear and effective way to family, friends, and others to help them understand their role in preventing skin cancer. We must also support policy and environmental changes that protect both children and adults.”

Diagnoses of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, have increased by 200 percent since 1973, according to the report. And since many of these cases are preventable, Massachusetts is on a mission to stop it.

California, Hawaii, Illinois, Louisiana, Minnesota, Nevada, Orgeon, Texas, Vermont, and Washington have already passed similiar legislation bannind indoor tanning for minors. The Senate approved the taning bill July 29 and awaits a third reading from the Massachusetts House.