- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 28, 2014

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Health advocates and doctors weighed in Tuesday on whether Kansas legislators should take steps to prohibit tanning parlors from letting minors use their tanning beds.

The House Health and Human Services Committee heard testimony on a plan that proponents say would improve public health by reducing the risk of some forms of skin cancer, such as melanoma. The measure includes a maximum $250 fine for businesses that allow customers younger than 18 to use tanning beds.

Dr. Josh Mammen, chairman of the Kansas Commission on Cancer, said exposure to harmful levels of ultraviolet radiation from tanning beds increases the chances of developing melanoma later in life.

“This is the fastest growing cancer in the United States,” especially among young women who frequented tanning beds in their youth, Mammen said.

Mammen cited statistics from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration that indication 13 percent of high school students used indoor tanning beds in 2011, of which 29 percent were white females.

Industry representatives said the message should be one of moderation, not abstinence from UV exposure, whether from the sun or from tanning beds. While they support the proposed regulation, they argue that the conversation should be about proper skin care for all people to avoid cancer and the overuse of sunscreens.

“We support this bill, but it’s an imperfect solution,” said Joseph Levy of the American Suntanning Association. “It’s time for all of these parties to work together to deliver clear messages to the public. That’s not happening.”

He said oversimplifying the debate will make people turn to in-home tanning beds or overexposure outdoors and cause more health problems.

Roger Holmes owns 11 Celsius Tannery locations in Kansas and is on the Board of Cosmetology, which oversees tanning salons. While he said he supported the bill, he said the changes would affect less than 4 percent of those who use indoor tanning.

He said his facilities require people age 15 to 18 to obtain parental consent before tanning. Holmes also said that his employees are expected to counsel clients about their skin types and whether tanning is appropriate.

Holmes said state regulations require a trained employee to be at the business during hours of operation. Those who shouldn’t use tanning beds are encouraged to use sprays to achieve a desired skin color.

“Our business is declining. More people are choosing abstinence to moderation,” he said.

Reagan Cussimanio, lobbyist for the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network said Texas, Nevada, Vermont, Illinois and California ban minors from using tanning beds, while several state legislatures are considering proposals similar to the one in Kansas.

The Kansas House committee hearing the testimony took no action on the bill on Tuesday, but it is expected to take the issue up again at a later date.