Indoor tanning talk is heating up as a bill restricting teen access to tanning salons inches closer to the House floor.
The bill, which slid through the Senate last week, bans 14- and 15-year-olds from using indoor tanning equipment without written consent from a doctor, and requires parents of 16 and 17 year-olds to sign a consent form that warns about skin cancer risks associated with indoor tanning.
"We know that tanning beds cause cancer. We've known this for several years, and we know this is a major issue for Caucasian youths - primarily girls - since they use tanning beds about six times more than boys," said Deb Girard, executive director of the Melanoma Foundation of New England.
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TanWorks employee Athena Lacaire said that she understands the concern, but does not agree that it warrants permission from a doctor.
"I can see why they'd have a problem with kids coming in to tan at such a young age, but if their parents are allowing them to tan, I feel like that's on them. I want people to be healthy, but I also don't agree with people telling others what to do," she said.
Lacaire's co-worker agreed, saying that parents should make the call. "Until your child is 18, you have control of your child. I don't think they should have to go the doctor and get a note if they just want to get a tan for a prom," said Fallon MacDougall.
Tanning salon patron Sonja Styblo said that while there is nothing wrong with adults tanning in moderation, kids should be held to a stricter standard.
"I'm all about getting doctor's consent, because it's not good for you," she said.
The House has rejected the legislation each time it has passed the Senate since it was first introduced five years ago.
Girard said its unpopularity in the House may be due concerns over potential impact on small businesses and parental rights.
California, and more recently, Vermont, have both passed legislation banning indoor tanning for all minors.
If the House passes the legislation, which Girard is hopeful it will, the state will be that much closer to following in the footsteps of those states.
"The thing that helped us most in the last few months is the New Jersey tanning mom story," Girard said.
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Indoor tanning is the leading contributor to Melanoma, a highly aggressive form of skin cancer most common among Caucasian people.
Melanoma is the most common cancer among women aged 25-32, and it kills one person every hour
New England states have a higher than average rate of melanoma
As many as 10,000 people a year die from melanoma
People who use tanning beds once a month before the age of 35 increase their melanoma risk by 75 percent
Using a tanning bed for 20 minutes is equivalent to spending one to three hours a day at the beach with no sun protection at all
Tanning beds put out three to six times the amount of radiation given off by the sun
For most people, 5-10 minutes of unprotected sun 2-3 times a week is enough to help skin make Vitamin D, which is a health essential