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Tanning bill might deny minors right to tan

With colder weather moving in and summer tans fading, some people may be tempted to hit the tanning beds to keep their bronze glow, but recent legislation could put a stop to “fake-baking” for minors.

Ohio lawmakers are considering passing a bill into law that would prevent any individual under the age of 18 to use indoor tanning beds, unless prescribed by a doctor.

California became the first state to pass a law with such strict age restrictions on ultraviolet tanning devices Oct. 9. Ohio, along with New York, Illinois and Rhode Island, is considering a law similar to California’s, according to The Orange County Register.

The ban is aimed to protect teenagers from the damaging effects of ultraviolet rays. Those who tan indoors are 74 percent more likely to develop melanoma, the second-most common form of cancer in people ages 15-29, in their lifetime than those who have never tanned indoors, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation.

Rob Quinn, the president of Tan Pro USA, which has 40 stores in Ohio, said that this legislation is extremely unnecessary.

“The dermatologists who go out and seek the sponsors for this legislature with state lawmakers, they don’t tell the truth, they don’t tell the true story at all,” Quinn said. “They lead them to believe that tanning beds are a hundred times more damageable than sunlight, and nothing is further from the truth.”

Quinn quoted independent testing studies that show that the amount of skin damage from the sun is dependent on the time of day, but can be comparable to damage caused by tanning beds. Depending on the time of day and location, there are times that the sun causes more and less damage than lights in a tanning bed.

Sam Cosgrave, an employee at Tan Pro USA located at 2394 N. High St., supports Ohio legislators in banning minors from tanning because she thinks there is too much emphasis on the faux-tan look.

“Let kids grow up,” Cosgrave said. “There are too many young girls thinking, ‘I have to look good. I need to tan.’ Girls come in here beet red in the face and they tan everyday. That’s not good for your skin.”

Ohio laws currently allow any individual under the age of 18 to tan indoors with written consent from their parent or legal guardian, according to Ohio’s legislature website.

Maggie Bissler, a first-year graduate student in music, thinks that changing the laws won’t change people’s beauty ideals.

“Beauty practices are points of contention,” Bissler said. “They’re learned; we learn tan equals good and the way to gain a tan is to go to a tanning bed. Those beauty ideals are embodied so it’s difficult to say to somebody who associates tan with beauty that this needs to be illegal because of health repercussions.”

Noelle Hadder, another employee of Tan Pro USA, thinks Ohio should keep its current laws.

“I think people should have their own say in how they want to treat their bodies,” Hadder said. “My dad had skin cancer but I think it’s still your choice though. People know the risks of tanning (beds) when they come to tan.”

Some doctors prescribe their patients to tan for depression, vitamin D deficiency, fibromyalgia, muscle aches, skin disorders and even tooth whitening, according to Self magazine.

Dr. Kari Kendra, associate professor of clinical-medical oncology at Ohio State University’s Comprehensive Cancer Center Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital, told Public News Service in May that indoor tanning is not beneficial.

Kendra told Public News Service that “unlike natural sunlight, the light from indoor tanning doesn’t produce a pigment that protects the skin from UV rays naturally, and it doesn’t stimulate the production of vitamin D in the body.”

Representatives Courtney Combs (R) and Lorraine Fende (D) are the sponsors of this bill, which was introduced Feb. 22, 2011, but is pending review by the House Health & Aging Committee, according to Ohio’s legislature website.

Quinn, who has been fighting this bill for six years, said one of the biggest motives behind dermatologists’ push for the legislation is money.

“We’re taking a big chunk of their money,” Quinn said. “You can pay $4500 to go to a dermatologist and stand in front of sun lamps. Or you can do it for $20 a month.”

Psoriasis is a common skin condition that can be treated by excessive amounts of sunlight, including light from tanning beds. With the issue of health care in the U.S., Quinn said a large amount of their customers use their tanning beds for skin treatment.

With indoor tanning being an annual estimated $5 billion industry and patrons under 18 making up about 10 percent of the clientele, according to The Skin Cancer Foundation and 10TV News, tanning salons could stand to lose a significant sector of their market if this bill were to pass in Ohio.

“There’s a limit to what legislation can and cannot accomplish with regards to peoples’ beauty aesthetic,” Bissler said.

Chelsea Castle contributed to this story.

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