February 21, 2012
Bill banning kids from tanning beds advances

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A measure that would prohibit West Virginia children from using indoor tanning beds in an effort to combat skin cancer rates among young adults easily passed the Senate on Tuesday and was sent to the House of Delegates.

Opponents say the ban would put tanning salons out of business. The Senate voted 30-4 in favor of the measure that would require tanning salons to register with their local health departments. Patrons would be required to present proof of their age before they could tan. People younger than 18 would be prohibited.

The American Cancer Society supports the bill because teens and young adults are at a 75 percent higher risk of developing melanoma, a type of skin cancer, from just one indoor tanning session a month than teens who don't use tanning beds.

The potentially deadly cancer is the second most common type for those ages 15 to 29, according to the cancer society.

Lawmakers also heard reports on the connection between indoor tanning and skin cancer from Yale University and the University of Minnesota.

But Sen. Bob Williams, D-Taylor, isn't convinced the bill is the right move and voted against it.

He said the committee didn't adequately examine statistics provided to demonstrate the possible health risks. And he's concerned about the impact on small businesses that will see their client base shrink.

"Passage of this bill will essentially put them out of business," Williams said. He heard from business owners who said they wouldn't survive if they lost all of their teen tanners.

Williams said a better approach would be to let parents decide whether children should tan.

A parental consent law did not pass the Legislature last year. And now the cancer society is pushing for a full ban because parental consent laws have not decreased the number of teen tanners in states that have adopted such restrictions.

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