ANNAPOLIS, Md. (CBSDC/AP) — State Sen. Jamie Raskin wants to deny teenagers access to electric tanning beds.
Raskin, D-Montgomery, presented his bill to ban minors from indoor tanning beds to the Senate Finance Committee Thursday afternoon.
He pointed to his own battle with colon cancer and said that teenagers do not have the wherewithal to truly consider the risks associated with ultraviolet light emitted by the devices.
The legislation would prohibit anyone under 18 from using an electric tanning bed, eliminating a provision in Maryland law that allows minors to tan if they have parental permission.
“We don’t say you can smoke cigarettes if you get a note from your parents. We don’t say you can drink liquor if you get a note from your parents,” Raskin said in an interview Wednesday. “It is a deadly health risk and we should not be allowing minors to do it.”
Last year, California enacted a law to keep minors out of tanning beds and in 2009 Howard County became the first jurisdiction in Maryland to ban tanning for teenagers. The Howard County law does allow minors to use commercial tanning beds if they have a prescription from a doctor.
Raskin said he would support an amendment to the bill allow for a similar prescription provision, but only if it is necessary to get the measure passed.
Opponents of Raskin’s bill said a correlation between exposure to ultraviolet rays and skin cancer is not strong enough to warrant banning minors from the beds and that the potential law could hurt small businesses and strip parental rights.
Bruce Bereano, a lobbyist for the tanning industry said he checked with the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and found the law that allows for parental consent has been on the books for four years. He says there hasn’t been a single complaint or a problem with parental consent.
A panel of doctors and cancer research representatives spoke in favor of the bill, noting research they say suggests tanning beds can cause multiple forms of skin cancer, including melanoma.
According to the Joanna M. Nicolay Melanoma Foundation, the disease is the most common cancer among adults 25 to 29 and the number of cases has been accelerating in young white women since 1992.
“The question for us is it good enough to say you can get a parent’s note as a 15-, 16-, 17-year-old and you can spend two or three days a week in front of a known carcinogen,” Raskin told the panel. “This legislation enables us to save people from that terrible fate.”
40 percent of Caucasian girls between 13- and 19-years-old reportedly used a tanning bed at least once according to study reported the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine. 28 percent of the girls admitted using the bed three or more times.
12 percent of Caucasian boys in the same age range admitted use at least once.
Opponents argued that exposure to ultraviolet light can toughen the skin and reduce the chance of developing melanoma.
Scientists opposed to the bill said that studies that suggest serious risks are associated with tanning beds are skewed because they include very fair-skinned people who are more likely to develop melanoma.
Teens and their parents will also likely invest in at-home tanning beds and lights if they cannot tan in salons, Bereano said.
“It is not going to stop minors from tanning,” he said. “We’re talking about parents and I believe in parents’ rights. I believe in parents being intelligent and having relationships with their children and talking things through.”
Several tanning salon owners testified their employees take precautions to make sure teens don’t tan without parental permission and that people with fair skin are discouraged from using electric beds.
If they pass Raskin’s bill, lawmakers would be turning their backs on salon owners, with whom they struck a deal in 2008 to create the parental permission provision, said Jeff Zellmer, legislative director for the Maryland Retailers Association.
“The proponents of this bill, what are they going to do? Are they going to close the beaches at Ocean City because the sun’s going to be there?” Zellmer said.
Sen. James Mathias, whose district includes Ocean City, responded that even lifeguard stands on the shore now have warnings about ultraviolet light exposure.
“That’s what this is about here,” said Mathias, D-Worcester, whose wife, Kathleen, died from cancer last year. “This is about taking what we learned here and making the world a better place, whether we’re intruding or not.”
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