Politics & Government

Bill would ban young people from tanning salons

Artificial tans may be harder to come by for Washington teenagers if a proposed bill in the state Legislature becomes law.

Senate Bill 6065, heard Monday by the Senate Committee on Commerce and Labor, would make it illegal for anyone 18 or younger to use commercial tanning facilities.

Businesses caught breaking the law would be subject to fines of up to $250 per violation.

Similar laws have been passed in California, Illinois, Texas, Nevada, Vermont, and, most recently, Oregon.

Thirty-three states have some kind of regulation on tanning, but Washington currently has no licensing or regulatory restrictions.

Republican Curtis King of Yakima is the bill's primary sponsor. A similar bill last year never made it out of committee, he said, but this one has a better chance at a vote due to eased restrictions.

Last year's bill featured a penalty of $1,000 a day for salons caught violating the 18-and-under ban.

King has read many stories of young women whose adult lives were greatly impacted by the negative effects of teenage tanning, he said.

"Those young men and women are the most vulnerable when they're under the age of 18, and we need to do something to protect them," he said.

Six people testified at the hearing, including a melanoma survivor, a dermatologist, and a member of the American Cancer Society's Cancer Action Network. While all who testified were in support of the bill, a few had reservations.

Daniel Mann, owner of a Seattle tanning salon chain, expressed concern that the bill takes away a parent's right to consent to their child using the those services.

Mann's salons always require parental consent for minors, he said. His business also sees families coming in together to prep for vacation tans, which wouldn't be possible with the new bill.

Joseph Levy, scientific advisor to the American Sun Tanning Association, said it's standard practice to allow tanning salons to request parental consent for liability purposes, even if the state doesn't require it.

Teenagers banned from salons, he added, would likely seek out home tanning units if they were unable to get those services commercially.

If the new bill eventually becomes law, tanning bed users would be required to show government-issued photo identification to prove their age.

Sen. Mike Hewitt, R-Walla Walla, listed as a co-sponsor of the bill, has had six operations for skin cancer, none as a result of tanning beds, he said.

"It's a problem," he said of skin cancer. "And it's about education. Both my kids now -- they're grown boys -- neither one of them will go out without a longsleeve shirt and a hat on anymore, because they've seen their dad get sliced up."

-- Washington State University student Matt Benoit: 509-947-9277, mbenoit@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @Matt_Benoit_