- Associated Press - Saturday, March 1, 2014

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Minors who regularly head into tanning salons to bronze their skin would no longer be able to use the facilities under a plan being considered by Iowa lawmakers.

The bill would order tanning salons across the state to ban anyone under age 18 from using commercial tanning devices and would require the salons to issue a written warning to customers and post clearly visible warning signs. The earlier a person is exposed to ultraviolet radiation from indoor tanning and other sources, the greater the risk of getting melanoma and other skin cancers later in life, according to the American Cancer Society.

Sen. Herman Quirmbach, D-Ames, who sponsored the bill, said a dermatologist sparked his interest in the issue when she contacted him to share the correlation between the use of tanning salons and higher incidences of skin cancer. Since one of his best friends from college died from skin cancer, though not necessarily because of tanning devices, he said he was persuaded that reducing the risk is crucial.

“That’s the bottom line - there’s a real risk of cancer here,” he said. “It just seemed appropriate.”

Under Quirmbach’s proposal, a tanning facility would not be allowed to let minors tan, with or without parental consent. If warning signs are obstructed from view or statements aren’t provided to all other customers, the facility would be subject to a civil penalty.

“It’s not just people under 18 that I’m concerned about. It’s everybody,” Quirmbach said. “We want to make sure that they’re at least fully informed about their decisions.”

Five states have already banned the use of tanning beds for minors, and at least 33 others regulate the use of tanning facilities in some fashion. Iowa doesn’t have any statewide restrictions regarding indoor tanning, though many facilities require parental consent for minors.

Seventeen-year-old Denice Ackerman said she believes a ban is unnecessary when parental consent is typically required. Though she doesn’t tan regularly, Ackerman said she should have the choice to do so.

“I think it should be up to their parents,” she said before getting a tan at Sun Seekers Tan Spa in Des Moines. “If parents are going to sign off on it and say it’s fine, then they should be able to tan.”

Ackerman acknowledged teenagers might not be as informed about tanning risks as adults and that there was value in posted warnings.

Dr. Marta VanBeek, a clinical associate professor of dermatology at the University of Iowa, said she’s noticing more cases of skin cancer on the torsos of younger individuals, an area not typically exposed to UV radiation unless they are tanning. She said the intensity of UV exposure in tanning beds results in a higher dose of UV exposure per minute, which damages skin and could lead to the formation of cancerous cells.

But Joe Levy, a scientific adviser with the American Suntanning Association, argued there are significant benefits associated with UV radiation. Workers at tanning salons monitor UV exposure for clients to avoid sunburns, which he said is the main concern, as sunburns are most damaging to the skin.

Levy also said UV exposure allows for the natural development of vitamin D within the body.

“To simply say that UV is harmful is comparable to saying water causes drowning and we should avoid it,” he said.

VanBeek, however, said skin produces a finite amount of vitamin D, so tanning solely for vitamin D intake does nothing but subject oneself to unnecessary harm. She stressed there are safer, more efficient ways to take in vitamin D without UV exposure, such as through diet or supplements.

“There’s no such thing as a healthy tan,” VanBeek said.

Sun Seekers manager Staci Cross said she isn’t worried about losing business if the legislation passes. She said the majority of clients at the salon are in their late 20s to early 30s, and the under-18 age group represents no more than 2 percent of business.

“I really don’t think we’re going to lose much business. Not at all,” Cross said.

Even with prom season approaching, when the salon experiences the greatest influx of minors, Cross said she isn’t concerned. The salon offers an alternate spray tan option, and she said she would expect teens to seek that alternative if they weren’t allowed to use tanning beds.

The American Suntanning Association is registered in favor of the bill simply because there wouldn’t be much business lost, and Levy said he hopes this support might ignite a more robust conversation to get rid of the stigma that surrounds indoor tanning.

Quirmbach said he’s unsure about how the legislation will fare this session, but he’s encouraged by the progress it has made.

“I think that we’re succeeding in getting the word out, and I’m hopeful,” he said.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

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