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Bill would ban tanning for minors

Minors in Rhode Island will be unable to use tanning salons, even with their parents' permission, if a bill under consideration in the Rhode Island Senate passes.

The bill, which would amend the Tanning Facility Safety Standards Act, would prohibit those under the age of 18 from using tanning facilities. Current law stipulates that minors may use the facilities if a parent or guardian signs a consent form in the presence of a facility staff member, according to Department of Health regulations.

Sen. Rhoda Perry P'91, D-Providence, is sponsoring the bill along with Senators Joshua Miller, D-Cranston and Warwick, Harold Metts, D-Providence, Michael McCaffrey, D-Warwick, and V. Susan Sosnowski, D-New Shoreham and South Kingston. The Rhode Island Medical Society's Steven DeToy and the Rhode Island Dermatological Society's Elizabeth Welch asked Perry to sponsor the bill, she said.

Perry, who is also the Health and Human Services Committee chair, said research showed that indoor tanning was linked to certain types of skin cancer in a way that was "statistically frightening." According to the Food and Drug Administration, research from the International Agency for Research on Cancer showed that indoor tanning was closely associated with certain kinds of carcinoma and melanoma. Perry said that young women were "thinking less with their brain and more about what they look like."

Furthermore, Perry said, minors who use tanning beds are exposing themselves to radiation early on in their lives, increasing the amount of skin damage they undergo.

Bill proponents and sponsors also researched other options for restricting minors' use of tanning beds. Some states, Perry said, have mandates that require a pediatrician to sign off on consent forms, but Perry said the Rhode Island Medical Society and Dermatological Society disliked this option. She added that she did not know if this regulation was successful in the jurisdictions that enforce it.

Nick Liakos, the owner of Soma Tans at 224 Thayer St. and another salon in Somerset, Mass., thinks the proposed restriction is unfounded. Though Liakos does not anticipate that his business will be affected, since he serves mostly college students, he said parental permission should be enough to allow minors to tan.

"I think if somebody's parents are fine with it, then it's okay," he said.

Perry cited as encouragement for the bill's chances a recent FDA panel discussion in which many panel members approved of placing age restrictions on the use of tanning beds, with a minority favoring mandatory parental consent similar to Rhode Island's current regulations.

Another possibly beneficial development, Perry said, was the 10 percent federal tax on tanning salons included in the health reform bill passed in March.

The bill is set for an April 14 hearing in the Senate Health and Human Services Committee. If the bill passes the committee and the Senate, it will move on to the House, Perry said.

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