Continued from page 1

“UV tanning is by far what people want,” said Overstreet, saying tanning is a personal choice that shouldn’t be interfered with by government.

“Tanning lamps and beds are designed to mimic the noontime sun, and you use them a measured amount of time,” he said.

But according to American Academy of Pediatrics, powerful tanning beds produce radiation levels up to “10 to 15 times higher than that of the midday sun” and frequent tanners get a level of radiation that is not found in nature.

More than a million cases of skin cancer were diagnosed in the U.S. last year, according to the American Academy of Dermatology.

Cancer survivor Lisa Andrews, 41, said she shouldn’t have trusted tanning salon salespeople for medical advice. As a teenager, she went in for tanning bed stints one to three times a week in the winter months.

“I’ve always lived in California, and I wanted to have the blond hair and the brown skin and live up to all that California girl stuff,” said Andrews, who now protects her naturally pale skin with religious use of sunscreen. “I remember thinking I was so ugly when I was my own skin color.”

At age 35, she was diagnosed with a malignant melanoma on her leg, and she is now vigilant about watching her skin for signs of cancer. She attributes the cancer to her time in the tanning bed, which she also came to rely on for the euphoric buzz she would feel after the experience.

Exposure to UV rays from tanning beds or the sun may be addictive because the radiation may cause release of endorphins in the skin, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

For the past five years, Long Beach resident Samantha Healey has slipped into a tanning bed up to four times a week.

“I almost get, like, re-energized,” the 23-year-old said.

Healey has worked in tanning salons in California and Nevada and says rebellious teens do try to forge their parents’ signatures.

Wayne LaVassar, who owns 14 tanning salons in the Los Angeles area, says he requires parents to come in to sign permission slips at his California Tanning Salons. Requiring in-person authorization would be an appropriate middle ground instead of a ban, he said.

Missouri lawmakers are considering a bill this year that would require parents to sign off on their children’s tanning, but similar measures failed in Connecticut, Nevada, South Dakota and West Virginia.

In North Carolina, Ohio and Rhode Island, legislators are weighing whether a doctor’s note should be required for teens under 18. Iowa and Washington rejected such a requirement this year.

LaVassar said he doesn’t understand why legislation is moving in so many states when tanning beds are overseen by the FDA and parents should have the right to make decisions for their kids.

Story Continues →