- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 28, 2017

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - Citing skin cancer risks, lawmakers in West Virginia are considering joining more than a dozen other states that prohibit anyone under 18 from using tanning salons.

A House of Delegates health committee on Tuesday advanced the bill that would strengthen an existing law to a judiciary committee.

Under a 2013 state law, children under the age of 14 are already banned from tanning beds in West Virginia businesses, and those 14 to 17 need parental permission or consent. The latest bill would ban anyone under 18, even if they get parental permission.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 43 states regulate minors’ use of tanning facilities, and 15 states and the District of Columbia ban them outright for people under 18.

Besides West Virginia, nine other states are seeking to toughen existing laws this year.

In 2009, the World Health Organization declared tanning beds to be carcinogens.

Just as West Virginia doesn’t allow parental consent for 14- to 17-year-olds to smoke, “I think that we as a state should also consider not exposing our children to the tanning beds under the age of 18,” said Taylor County Republican Delegate Amy Summers. “I’m afraid that parents are making decisions for their children that don’t affect that parent, except for when they bury that child because they’ve died of skin cancer.”

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration says 1.6 million children visit tanning salons each year. UV radiation from any source can cause skin cancer, burns, premature skin aging and eye damage. Tanning at a young age greatly increases skin cancer risk, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

And the American Academy of Dermatology says people exposed to radiation from indoor tanning are 59 percent more likely to develop melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer, than those who have never tanned indoors.

Raleigh County Republican Lynne Arvon, who works in the medical field and opposes tanning beds, said she was concerned that West Virginia would lose business to all surrounding states, where parental consent is allowed.

“This doesn’t affect any other person but the person and the parents who choose to use the tanning bed,” Arvon said. “For those reasons I have to oppose it.”

The bill doesn’t apply to tanning beds in homes. Spray-on tanning facilities also are unaffected.

Penalties for tanning salons that serve minors range from $100 for a first offense to as much as $1,000 for a third offense.

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