- Associated Press - Monday, June 27, 2011

LOS ANGELES (AP) - If a proposed law passes, California teens under 18 will need a fake ID to “fake and bake” themselves to a golden brown.

Citing skin cancer risks, legislators have joined lawmakers in at least 21 other states who have debated bills this year to ban or restrict tanning bed use by minors.

Teens under the age of 14 are already banned from tanning beds in California, and older teens need parental permission. But lawmakers in the Golden State are considering banning anyone under age 18 from using tanning beds, even if a parent says it’s OK.

Sen. Ted Lieu, who proposed the more stringent legislation, says the parent signatures on permission forms are often forged, and tanning salons benefit financially by looking the other way. The bill has been approved by the Senate and faces review by the Assembly policy committee Tuesday.

Lieu chides vain teens who make a habit of slipping into tanning beds, saying they’re short-sighted because “you will age doing this. Your skin will look more leathery later on.”

According to the Food and Drug Administration, exposure to UV radiation, whether from the sun or a tanning bed, can cause skin cancer, burns, premature skin aging and eye damage. Approximately 30 million Americans visit tanning salons every year, and 2.3 million of those are teens, the FDA says.

“There is no such thing as a safe tan,” according to the agency. “The increase in skin pigment, called melanin, which causes the tan color change in your skin is a sign of damage.”

In 2009, a World Health Organization research group classified UV-emitting tanning beds as “carcinogenic,” adding that health officials should strongly consider restricting minors’ access to sunbeds. WHO, the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Dermatology all support legislation banning the use of sunbeds and lamps for teens younger than 18.

Tanning businesses across the country are feeling the heat.

Along with California, lawmakers in New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania are considering banning tanning beds for people under age 18. Similar legislation failed this year in Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota and New Mexico.

Legislators in Massachusetts are considering a ban for teens under 14 or 16 in two separate bills. Lawmakers in Florida, Kentucky, Vermont and Washington rejected such measures this year.

John Overstreet, a spokesman for the Indoor Tanning Association, said sunscreen sellers are behind the legislative push and tanning beds are not proven to cause melanoma, the most deadly type of skin cancer.

California’s bill is sponsored by the state's dermatology association and a cancer research group called AIM at Melanoma, which lists major drug companies, including Pfizer Inc. and Bristol-Meyers Squibb Co., as its sponsors.

Overstreet said business owners in his trade group worry that the legislation would hurt small businesses already struggling in the current economy. There are now about 878 tanning businesses in California, a number that’s seen a 24 percent drop since 2009 because business has cooled, he said.

In areas where teens do a lot of tanning like college towns or affluent areas, Overstreet said, the legislation could mean a 10 percent hit to tanning salons’ income.

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