Tanning bed warnings prompt another Colorado bill
January 30, 2012
Denver — (AP) — Colorado is in the minority of states in not passing tanning bed limits for children. But a proposal this year to require parental notification for teens using UV tanning beds may run into opposition from lawmakers who have vowed to shun more regulation.
This year’s tanning bed bill would require a parent’s permission before a person under 18 could use a tanning bed with UV exposure. For children under 14, parents would have to be present while their children use a tanning bed.
Dr. Robert Dellavalle, chief of dermatology at the Denver VA Medical Center and an associate professor at the University of Colorado’s medical school, pointed to near-universal agreement in the medical community that exposure to UV rays in tanning beds increases the risk of skin cancer.
“We’re seeing a swing in all states toward regulation,” Dellavalle said. More than 30 states limit youth tanning bed use or require parental consent. California last year banned commercial UV tanning beds completely for children, something other states are considering this year.
“It’s kind of hard to argue that children need to use UV tanning,” Dellavalle said.
The new bill, sponsored by Democratic Rep. Cherylin Peniston of Westminster, faces an uphill battle, though. Politicians from both parties have made government regulation enemy No. 1 this session. Tanning bed limits failed by a single vote in 2007 amid concern that processing permission slips would be onerous for small salons.
The chairman of the committee that will consider the bill, Republican Rep. Larry Liston of Colorado Springs, said it’s doubtful it will pass.
“We have far more urgent things to be worrying about than tanning beds,” Liston said last week. “We certainly don’t need to be getting into regulating tanning beds.”
Even health activists aren’t crazy about the proposal. The American Cancer Society, for example, is not endorsing the bill because it’s not strong enough.
“We support bills that include a full ban for minors,” said Dana Dzwonkowski of the society’s Cancer Action Network.
An industry spokesman says Colorado’s 200 or so professional tanning salons won’t spend a lot of effort on the bill, either. John Overstreet of the Washington-based Indoor Tanning Association said most salons already require parental notification and that he doesn’t know of any that would allow a young child to tan without a parent on site.
“I don’t see any reason for government to tell businesses to do something they’re already doing,” Overstreet said.
Still, some dermatologists and health activists say the bill would be a good first step.
Jodi Duke, a 35-year-old melanoma survivor living in Aurora, used tanning beds as a teen and advocated for the bill that failed in 2007. Duke, now a pharmaceutical researcher, said she’d come back to the Capitol to testify for this year’s bill.
Last time, Duke said, lawmakers “felt like it was overreaching to regulate tanning beds.
“But I think the science even in the last couple years has come along to the point where it’s obvious there should be restrictions on tanning beds for young people.”
Dr. Sarolta Szabo of the Colorado Dermatology Society said she’s treated former tanning bed users as young as 21 for skin cancer. She said lawmakers shouldn’t pass up an opportunity to regulate teen tanning.
“They turn this into a small-business question. But we are not trying to control small businesses. We are trying to save lives,” said Szabo, who practices in Highlands Ranch.
Szabo compared teen tanning to tobacco use.
“If tobacco should be regulated, then this carcinogen should be regulated,” Szabo said.
Peniston conceded that her colleagues are loath to consider business regulations this year. A hearing has not been scheduled.
“This bill is not banning anything. This bill is about making sure parents understand the risk factors involved when their children use commercial tanning devices,” Peniston said. “It’s a health issue.”