The Senate unanimously approved a bill Thursday that would create an outright ban on tanning bed use by people under the age of 17.
The bill passed Thursday by the Senate lowered the minimum age for indoor tanning from 18 to 17 before passage. Current law prohibits tanning facility operators from allowing anyone under age 17 to use tanning devices without written consent from the minor’s parent or guardian. The fine for violating the law is $100.
Public Health Co-Chair Sen. Terry Gerratana, D-New Britain, said she felt an outright ban on tanning by minors was necessary after the “overwhelming” testimony on the health effects.
“The testimony confirmed our fears,” Gerratana said.
She pointed to a Yale School of Public Health study that showed indoor tanning is associated with a 69 percent increase in early-onset basal cell carcinoma (the most common type of skin cancer), and statistics indicated a 75 percent increased risk of melanoma (now the leading cause of death for 20 to 29 year old women) for tanning-bed users under age 30. She said the 2012 study provided data lawmakers could not ignore.
Additionally, the World Health Organization recently deemed ultraviolet rays from tanning beds to be a carcinogen, putting tanning beds on the same level as cigarettes in terms of health risks.
Similar legislation has been filed twice in the past and is being pushed this legislative session despite efforts by the tanning industry to regulate itself. In January, tanning bed business owners announced plans to require physician’s referrals from customers under the age of 16.
But the Senators agreed that because skin cancer has become the most common form of cancer in the U.S. and research suggests risks are higher for those under the age of 35, it was necessary to intervene.
“This bill has been controversial,” Sen. Minority Leader John McKinney said. “But when you think of how popular it is for very young people to go into tanning salons without understanding the potential health consequences, I see the need for government intervention.”
The bill, which would become effective in October, still faces obstacles before passage and now heads to the House. Gerratana, who was elected in 2011, said despite opposition to the bill in past years, she believes it finally has the scientific backing it needs to garner enough support to push it through.
“Hopefully three times is the charm,” Gerratana said.