Alabama’s physician governor plans to sign legislation to put Alabama among a growing number of states enacting restrictions on teenagers using tanning salons.
The Legislature gave final approval to a bill last Thursday that sets the limits. The bill’s sponsor, Republican Rep. Ron Johnson of Sylacauga, said it is the result of dermatologists seeing a growing number of teenagers with melanoma from excessive using of tanning beds.
“Most young people want to be with the ‘in crowd,’ and they don’t realize the danger it presents to them,” Johnson said in an interview Friday.
Gov. Robert Bentley practiced dermatology in Tuscaloosa prior to running for governor in 2010. He plans to sign the bill into law, his communications director, Jennfer Ardis said Friday. “The governor knows the danger that tanning beds pose and certainly supports the bill,” she said.
Johnson’s bill prohibits anyone 14 and younger from using a tanning bed at a salon without a doctor’s prescription. Fifteen-year-olds can use them if a parent is present and gives written approval. Teens 16 and 17 could use them with written approval from a parent.
The permission form that parents must sign includes several warnings, including, “Repeated exposure my cause premature aging of the skin and skin cancer.” Johnson said the warnings are to make sure parents are making an informed decision.
The bill does not regulate tanning beds in homes or teens getting spray tans at salons. The bill will take affect about six months after the governor signs it.
The American Suntanning Association, a national association of tanning salons, worked with Johnson on the legislation. “It will cause very little change because parental consent has been the standard,” said Joseph Levy, scientific adviser to the association.
The Alabama Retail Association, which represents some large salons in the state, also worked with Johnson and supported the bill, President Rick Brown said.
Many states have considered tanning regulations since a New Jersey woman was accused of taking her 5-year-old daughter into a tanning booth in 2012. The deeply tanned woman, who became known as the Tanning Mom, was charged with child endangerment, but a grand jury refused to indict her. More than 30 states now regulate minors’ use of tanning salons. California and Vermont have bans, but most states use a minimum age and parental consent like the Alabama legislation.
The president of the Medical Association of the State of Alabama said the regulations are important because skin cancer is the most common type of cancer. “With indoor tanning bed use on the rise, this is a responsible approach to ensure parents are involved in an important decision affecting their children’s health,” Dr. Michael Flanagan said.
Jim Mercer, spokesman for the states Dermatological Society, said the legislation is a common sense balance between public health concerns for children and the right of businesses to provide a legal service without excessive governmental regulation.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found in a 2011 survey that about 13 percent of high school students use tanning salons, including 32 percent of female 12th-graders.
Levy said the restrictions on teens don’t have much impact on tanning salons’ business. “The teen market is about 2 percent of tanning facilities’ business,” he said.