By Allison Landry
Capital News Service
Children under 15 would no longer be able to use indoor tanning salons under legislation moving through the Virginia General Assembly.
The state Senate recently approved Senate Bill 1274, which would prohibit individuals 14 and younger from using a tanning device at a tanning facility.
It would also require most 15- to 17-year-olds to get their parent or guardian's consent before visiting a tanning parlor.
The bill could become law, pending the outcome of a House vote. It is waiting to be reviewed in the House Committee on Commerce and Labor.
“The goal is to try to reduce incidents of cancer, which is a significant issue particularly for children and adolescents who use tanning beds,” said Sen. George Barker, D-Alexandria. “Tanning beds have clearly been shown to contribute to cancer, and children and adolescents are the ones that are most vulnerable to that.”
Taylor Marrow and Emma O’Brien, students at Centreville High School in Fairfax County, brought the issue to Barker’s attention and helped write the legislation. They testified before the Senate Committee on Commerce and Labor.
“Through our research, we found that tanning is not only a carcinogen, but it is also particularly damaging to children and their development,” O’Brien said.
After winning an endorsement from the committee, the bill passed the Senate last week on a 34-5. All three of Arlington's senators — Janet Howell, Adam Ebbin and Barbara Favola — voted in favor of the measure.
The Virginia Department of Health’s indoor tanning regulations have not been updated since 2007. A number of tanning regulation bills were introduced in the General Assembly in recent years, but none have passed.
The existing law says customers under 15 must get written permission from a parent or legal guardian every six months.
Arlington has numerous tanning salons — Solar Planet Tanning has locations in Courthouse and Ballston, plus Palm Beach Tan and Fit To Be Tan in Clarendon, and that's just the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor.
“I feel that this law is a waste of time and there are bigger things that need to be addressed,” said Dan Shorkey, owner of Fan Tan in Richmond.
Shorkey said his customer base includes mostly Virginia Commonwealth University students, not high school students. But tanning salons near high schools might run into trouble because they may serve a younger demographic, he said.
Randy Raggio, an assistant professor of marketing at the University of Richmond, said the legislation could give teenagers and their parents second thoughts about the safety of tanning.
“Anytime you attach a safety concern to a product or service, it may cause people to think twice about it,” Raggio said. “So it could have an overall effect on the demand for tanning services.”
California, Vermont and Illinois are among states that have recently passed laws to restrict minors from visiting indoor tanning salons.
For example, California banned teens under 18 from indoor tanning. Virginia is unlikely to go that far, state officials say.
To many people, other environmental health concerns in Virginia that take precedence over tanning, said Gary Hagy, director of food and environmental health at the Virginia Department of Health.
“There is only so much you can do to protect the youth of an area,” he said. For Virginia, “indoor tanning is not as much of an environmental threat as it might be for California.”
Research into the health risks of indoor tanning has prompted states to restrict tanning, said Samantha Guild, president and founder of AIM at Melanoma, a cancer research organization.
“There are a lot more findings from scientific studies that show there is clearly a link between indoor tanning beds and melanoma and other skin cancers,” she said. “There is also a lot more public awareness about the dangers. The general public is urging that legislators bring this issue up.”
How They Voted
Passed Senate (34-Y 5-N)
YEAS – Alexander, Barker, Black, Blevins, Carrico, Colgan, Deeds, Ebbin, Edwards, Favola, Garrett, Hanger, Herring, Howell, Locke, Lucas, Marsden, Marsh, McEachin, Miller, Newman, Norment, Northam, Petersen, Puckett, Puller, Reeves, Ruff, Saslaw, Smith, Stanley, Stosch, Stuart, Watkins – 34.
NAYS – Martin, McDougle, McWaters, Obenshain, Wagner – 5.
NOT VOTING – Vogel – 1.
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