Bill could prohibit indoor tanning under age 18


Minors hoping to add a glow to their skin soon could be turned away from Michigan indoor tanning facilities, pending legislation introduced Tuesday.

Days after students soaked up a few rays in tanning salons before spring break, a group of Michigan legislators introduced a bill to prohibit individuals under the age of 18 from tanning indoors.

“Many young people — boys and men too — will go … tanning so they can get their ‘base tan’ — all that is a base jolt of radiation that will burn your skin,” said State Rep. Jim Townsend, D-Royal Oak, one of five legislators who introduced the bill.

As of 2012, California and Vermont are the only states banning individuals under 18 years old from tanning salons, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Parental permission is required in 11 states, including Michigan, and Wisconsin bans tanners under 16. Nineteen states have mixed or multiple restrictions, such as age bans or parental accompaniment or permission, and 17 states have no statewide restrictions.

Since the beginning of 2013, 27 other states along with Michigan have introduced bills to further restrict tanning. Most states also have proposed prohibiting minors from tanning.

Although Michigan requires parents sign permission to allow people under 18 years old to use tanning facilities, Townsend said there’s no real way to regulate the law.

“There’s no function or mechanism by which the state or local police can track these facilities, unless we happened to walk into a tanning facility and see somebody coming out with a bright red face and card that person,” he said.

According to The Skin Cancer Foundation, using a tanning bed before age 35 increases the risk of melanoma, a dangerous form of skin cancer, by 75 percent. The American Cancer Society estimates almost 9,200 will die from melanoma this year.

About 30 million people use tanning facilities per year, and the industry earns about $5 billion in revenue annually.

Justin Carpenter, owner of J2 Tanning, 109 E. Grand River Ave., said only about 5 percent of his business comes from people under the age of 18 because his salon is located close to campus, but it still would negatively impact business.

Carpenter said his business emphasizes the positives of indoor tanning, such as exposure to vitamin D. He said parents should be the ones deciding whether teenagers under 18 can visit tanning facilities, which is Michigan’s current law.

Carpenter said the Michigan Legislature should spend its time targeting other, more pressing problems than regulating tanning.

“With all the budget problems, it seems like they’d be focusing their attention on other things,” he said.

Human resource management freshman Alyssa Daly said she relaxes by tanning at the The Tanning Company LLC, 423 Albert Ave.

But Daly, who began tanning when she was 16 years old, said tanning can have some harmful side effects and understands if legislators decide to pass the bill.

“I think I’m supportive now because I’m over 18, but if I wasn’t I wouldn’t be,” she said of passing the bill.

Townsend said although banning minors from tanning might hurt salon business, it could encourage them to find other ways to make money or help teens achieve the tan look, such as using spray-on tans.

Townsend introduced a similar bill in January 2012, but it failed in the House’s Committee on Regulatory Reform.

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