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There soon might be fewer teenage John Boehner look-a-likes walking around the District, thanks to legislation proposed by Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh that would ban all minors from using tanning beds.
The bill, introduced on Tuesday, would raise the minimum age for tanning beds from 14 to 18. Under the District’s current law, teenagers older than 14 can use tanning beds with parental consent.
But according to Cheh, the legislation is necessary to protect teenagers from themselves. “Even with efforts to inform minors of these risks, studies have shown that greater knowledge of the dangers of tanning does not change behavior,” she says in a press release. “That is why it is imperative we pass legislation banning this practice—-a practice that can prove fatal.”
Cheh didn’t respond to a request for comment about the bill. But tanning industry lobbyist and Vince Gray frat bro Bruce Bereano thinks the parental consent requirement is enough. “If a parent, after discussing with their child, wants to allow for tanning, then let it be,” he says. “What are we being a nanny state for?”
Bereano, who works for the Indoor Tanning Association representing D.C. salons, contested Cheh’s claim that use of tanning beds can have “life-threatening health effects.”
“There is no conclusive, reliable proof that minors using tanning beds is causing melanoma,” he says.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention disagree. According to an article on skin cancer, the risk of melanoma is 59 percent higher for people who begin tanning younger than 35—-not quite the 75 percent figure cited in Cheh’s press release, but still pretty high.
Faced with those figures, Bereano pivoted.
“The bill is not going to solve any problems because you could go online right now and buy your own tanning bed for $300 or $1,000,” says Bereano. (It’s worth noting that the cheapest tanning bed I could find online was $1,299, while most were around $2,000.)
Regardless of price, Bereano says that professional tanning salons also provide safety measures that would be lost if teens started tanning at home. “These are very professional people they time you so you can only tan for a certain period of time, they test you to make sure your skin allows for tanning, and they make sure things are not done in excess,” he says. “All [the bill] is going to do is hurt businesses in the District of Columbia unnecessarily when the proper safeguards are already in place.”
A Council hearing hasn’t been set for the legislation, but Bereano expects he’ll be there when it happens.
“Hopefully, we’re going to have rational minds prevail,” Bereano says.
Update, 3:00 p.m.: Though the CDC states that melanoma risk is 59 percent higher for tanners under 35, Cheh’s legislative director Andrew Newman pointed me to a May 2010 Food and Drug Administration report on melanoma that put that number at 75 percent. Neither stat is appealing.
Tanning bed photo by Shutterstock