- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 4, 2014

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - Teenagers younger than 16 may soon be restricted from using indoor tanning beds in Nebraska under legislation making its way through the state Legislature.

Lawmakers on Tuesday gave first-round approval to a bill that advocates say is designed to reduce skin cancer risks and that they liken to youth restrictions on alcohol and tobacco.

The bill by Sen. Jeremy Nordquist of Omaha would also require tanning facilities to post a sign warning that overexposure to ultraviolet radiation can cause premature skin aging and skin cancer. The bill advanced on a 34-0 vote.

“We are seeing an increasing number of young Nebraskans and young Americans who are battling skin cancer largely because of the increase we see in indoor tanning - and a lot of times the inappropriate use of indoor tanning,” Nordquist said.

Nordquist cited a study by the Mayo Clinic that found an eightfold increase in melanoma incidences in young women from 1970 to 2009.

Senators added an exemption for young teens if they are accompanied by a parent and the parent signs a permission form each time their child tans.

Sen. Jim Scheer of Norfolk introduced the amendment, which he said facilitates parental involvement.

The original legislation would have imposed a ban on users younger than 18. And at one point, lawmakers were considering requiring a physician’s note to allow those under 16 to tan.

Michelle Grubbs, a tanning salon owner in Lincoln, said the legislation is similar to what she already requires.

For customers younger than 16, Grubbs said she requires parental consent and said that employees educate the parent and the minor on the tanning process.

“We really try to educate, and we definitely guide them,” she said.

This bill would just change her practice so that a parent has to be present every time.

Teens younger than 16 represent a small portion of the tanning salon industry, so the legislation wouldn’t have a big effect on her business, Grubbs said.

Still, she said, there is reason for concern anytime regulations and restrictions are placed on a business.

Sen. Bill Kintner of Papillion said the debate comes down to trusting people to make the right decision once they are informed. Parent need to be trusted to do the right thing, he said.

“Our role really should be to make sure that people understand this has serious long-term consequences,” he said.

Sen. Lydia Brasch of Bancroft agreed with Kintner.

“Parents do know what is best for their child, for their young adults,” she said.

Indoor tanning is considered the same class of carcinogen as tobacco and asbestos by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer, Nordquist said. It makes sense to allow appropriate regulation of the tanning, he said.

Sen. Al Davis of Hyannis said the bill was reasonable.

“When you’re a young person, the last thing you think about is what’s going to happen to you 40 years from today or 30 years from today,” he said.

The bill faces two more rounds of votes before the Legislature.

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The bill is LB132

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