In what may be one of Mayor Michael Bloomberg's last health initiatives before the sun sets on his administration, the city launched an offensive this week targeting tanning salons.
The city's health department would assume oversight of the indoor tanning industry from the state under rules for salon operators proposed to the Board of Health Tuesday.
If enacted, the city would enforce a state law barring New Yorkers under 17 from tanning salons. The city would also crack down on unlicensed salons and require UV-equipment operators to undergo training. Heath risks from overexposure to UV radiation through indoor tanning would be highlighted in a public education campaign by the city.
Doctors applauded the proposals.
"We know that people that have used tanning salons — especially people who started young — are at risk for having skin cancer and melanoma," said Jennifer Stein, assistant professor of dermatology at NYU Langone.
Stein said she sees an increasing number of younger patients in their twenties with melanoma, which killed over 100 New Yorkers last year.
"It's not enough to have the law," Stein said of the state's age restriction. "We have to make sure the law is being enforced."
The proposed rules come as rates of skin cancer are on the rise and the number of melanoma cases has doubled since the early 1990s, health officials said.
After public hearings and a vote, the rules could go into affect as early as next spring.
The American Suntanning Association, which represents suntanning facilities nationwide, said they support the plan.
Jan Meshon, who has owned City Sun near Union Square for eight years, said he would cooperate with the health department as much as possible if the new rules go into effect.
But Meshon, 56, said he believed some of the risks of indoor tanning have been "blown out of proportion."
"There are risks in indoor tanning as is with everything we do, whether that's eating, driving cars," Meshon said, noting he regularly uses the salon to tan in the winter.
Still, doctors said indoor tanning increases the chances of basal and squamous cell carcinoma, two types of skin cancer, and can can cause premature aging of the skin.
Adolescents are often unaware of these risks. More than 60 percent of tanners between 16 and 18 reported experiencing burns after indoor tanning sessions, officials said.
"They need guidance when it comes to indoor tanning just like they would with drinking or smoking," said dermatologist Debra Jaliman.
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