New York State legislators may ban indoor teen tanning this summer.
Statewide, minors ages 14 to 18 need parental consent to fake and bake. Kids younger than 14 are banned from tanning under state law. Some New York counties, like Rockland, Suffolk and Nassau, have even more stringent restrictions than what's already on the books.
The bill (S3461A) is currently in committee and has bipartisan support in the Legislature. It would also have to be merged with a general assembly version to make it out alive. If ithe bill becomes law, it would prohibit children 18 and younger from using an ultraviolet radiation device unless they have special permission from a doctor.
Dr. Darell Rigel, a dermatologist at New York University's Langone Medical Center, said the law is necessary to protect minors from a cancer-causing agent.
“This is exactly the same as cigarette smoking,” he said. “We should protect minors from this carcinogen.”
In the last 20 years, Rigel has seen an increase in melanoma cases among younger patients. Overall, he's also seen an uptick in skin cancer as well. He has been practicing medicine in New York City for nearly three decades.
“There are lots of studies that show that exposure early in life [to ultraviolet rays] increases your risk later in life,” said Rigel.
Melanoma is one of the top five cancers among 20 to 34 year olds. About 560 New Yorkers die from skin cancer each year, according to a 2009 report by the New York State Department of Health. Roughly 1,600 men and 1,300 women are diagnosed with melanoma in New York State each year.
Seventy percent of customers at tanning salons are Caucasian women ages 16 to 49. Women also make up the bulk of tanning salon owners, said John Overstreet, executive director of the Indoor Tanning Association, which is based in Washington, D.C. Overstreet denied that using a tanning bed causes cancer.
“If you use the equipment properly, you won’t get burned,” he said.
Rigel countered that in the last several years he has started to see cases of skin cancer in areas where the sun doesn’t shine.
Still, Overstreet called the New York bill a government intrusion.
“This kind of law would certainly cost jobs and cost businesses,” he said.
With the recession, disposable income has dipped, and tanning salons have seen a decrease in customers. Coupled with the 10 percent federal tax on tanning that was sandwiched in the health care reform bill and will take effect in two weeks, tanning salons will suffer even more, said Overstreet.
Nationwide, 32 states have tanning restrictions.
“No state has done anything as draconian as this ban,” he said.