In states where minors are banned from using indoor tanning facilities, like Connecticut, young people are still accessing the services, a new study has found.
Research assistants from the Yale School of Public Health posed as minors and called tanning salons in 13 states that have bans, including Connecticut. One in five tanning salons nationwide agreed over the phone to knowingly book appointments for minors, the study found.
Of 412 respondents, 20 percent said they would provide the service to the minor caller. About 12 percent said “yes” outright while 7.5 percent said it depended, or that a minor could obtain services with permission from a guardian or health professional.
Connecticut-specific data was not available in the study.
“Given the small sample size in our state, we can’t make interpretations based on our data for Connecticut only,” said study leader Leah Ferrucci, associate research scientist at the Yale School of Public Health.
The study, published in the journal Translational Behavioral Medicine, found the lowest rates of compliance in Southern states, where about 29 percent of respondents were willing to let minors access tanning services. Compliance was highest, at about 88 percent, in places where bans had been in place for two years or more, researchers found.
Connecticut became one of the first states in the nation to ban the use of indoor tanning facilities by minors under age 17 when it did so in October 2013. Other states with bans that were included in the Yale study are: New York, California, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Louisiana, Minnesota, Nevada, Oregon, Texas, Vermont, Washington and the District of Columbia.
Under Connecticut’s law, which is part of the health code, businesses that violate the ban face fines of up to $100 per offense, said Sen. Terry Gerratana,D-Berlin, who was a major proponent of the ban in 2013.
Enforcement of the law falls under the jurisdiction of municipal health departments and regional health districts, said Gerratana, who is co-chair of the legislature’s Public Health Committee.
In crafting the legislation, she worked with trade groups and tanning businesses. Some weren’t happy a ban was enacted but “they basically vowed that they would be compliant with it,” she said, and in the end “the industry was very amenable to going along with this.”
The Yale study found that, in addition to violating the bans, many salons nationwide provided inaccurate health information to callers about indoor tanning, according to the study.
Just 20 percent of businesses in the study said indoor tanning could potentially cause skin cancer, while 10 percent denied the practice carried any dangers. Some cited vitamin D production, cosmetic reasons and treatment of skin diseases as benefits, researchers found.
Indoor tanning poses various risks, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. Using a tanning bed, booth or sunlamp exposes users to ultraviolet rays, which can cause skin cancers including melanoma, basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma.
In 2013, the most recent year for which data are available, 71,943 people nationwide were diagnosed with melanomas – the deadliest form of skin cancers – and 9,934 died from melanomas, according to the CDC.
In Connecticut, 19.9 people per 100,000 had melanomas and 2.2 per 100,000 died from them in 2013, data show.
Despite the risks, surveys by the CDC in 2015 found 7 percent of all high school students, and 11 percent of high school girls, nationwide used indoor tanning services.
In the wake of Connecticut’s ban, U.S. Rep. Rosa L. DeLauro has called for a nationwide ban on tanning beds for those under 17. In December 2015, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced proposed rules that would restrict tanning bed use to people 18 and older, and also would require tanning salon customers to sign forms acknowledging the health risks indoor tanning poses.
“Enacting well-crafted age-restriction laws to maximize compliance through enforcement of penalties on the state level, and moving towards a national ban with similar accompanying strong enforcement as proposed by many national and international health organizations, are essential to reduce skin cancer risk in the vulnerable youth population,” Ferrucci said.