ANNAPOLIS — The General Assembly will consider a pair of bills Thursday that would ban minors from using tanning beds, much to the agreement of health advocates and the dismay of some business owners.
Senate and House committees will hear testimony on their respective versions of a bill that would end existing Maryland law that allows residents under 18 to visit tanning parlors with permission from a parent.
Sponsors say youth tanning greatly increases one's odds of getting skin cancer and that a ban would eliminate a dangerous, unnecessary risk.
"We don't say you can smoke cigarettes if you get a note from your parents," said Sen. Jamin Raskin, Montgomery Democrat and one of 12 sponsors on the Senate bill. "We know it is a deadly health risk, and we should not be allowing minors to do it."
Many health groups have in recent years grown increasingly wary of tanning beds, which the World Health Organization labeled as carcinogenic in 2009.
The organization also cited a study that skin melanoma risks increase by 75 percent when a person begins using tanning beds regularly before age 35.
California is the only state that outlaws tanning devices for anyone under 18, but several states have laws banning younger teens.
Texas and Wisconsin ban tanning for minors younger than 16, while seven states outlaw tanning for those under 14, and North Carolina prohibits it for children under 13.
In Maryland, Howard County has since 2009 barred indoor tanning for people younger than 18, unless they receive a tanning prescription from a physician.
While many supporters say tanning-age restrictions are necessary, the Indoor Tanning Association has argued that research has offered no clear consensus on whether non-burning exposure to tanning beds is harmful, and that age restrictions would put many tanning salons out of business.
Maryland lawmakers introduced a bill last year to institute a ban for people under 18, but it was killed by the House Economic Matters Committee, largely over concerns about its business impact.
Delegate Warren E. Miller said committee members offered amendments that included an exemption for teens with a doctor's note, but that health lobbyists refused to compromise.
"Part of what we have to do is balance the great desire to regulate with the business impact of regulation," said Mr. Miller, Howard Republican. "As a committee, I think, we saw a real problem with what we were going to do to that industry if we enacted the law."
This year's bills will be heard by the House Health and Government Operations and Senate Finance committees.
Mr. Raskin downplayed his proposal's economic impact, arguing that bans in other states have had a minimal effect on business. He added that any health benefits should outweigh potential costs.
"The General Assembly recognizes that this is serious business," he said. "If there are known cancer risks out there, we should not allow children to accept those risks."
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