Bill would raise age for tanning bed use |

Bill would raise age for tanning bed use

Gregory Crofton

California Assemblyman Joe Nation has twin daughters who are 15 years old. He doesn’t want them to flash a “note” that would allow them to use tanning beds.

Under California law, teenagers between 14 and 17 years old can use a tanning bed as long as they have a note from a parent or guardian. But the San Rafael Democrat says many notes shown to tanning salon operators are forged.

Nation is co-author of a bill, AB 2193, that would change the rules. It would ban people under 18 from using tanning beds unless ultraviolet light is prescribed by a doctor to address things like acne and chronic skin disease.

“About 80 percent of sun damage occurs before the age of 18,” Nation said by phone from Sacramento. “Given the direct link between overexposure and skin cancer, including melanoma, we need to restrict access to this known carcinogen. We don’t allow kids to smoke when they are 15.”

Rhonda Dobson, co-owner Sunsational Tanning, which operates two tanning salons in South Lake Tahoe, said about 20 percent of her business comes from teens.

Dobson said that if teenagers are banned from using tanning beds it will just lead them to the Internet to buy unregulated home tanning units or to try to get tan outside and end up getting bad sunburns.

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“Even one time it’s not good to burn,” she said. “Sunburns are what causes skin cancer.”

Instead, Dobson said, proper skin care should emphasized by salon operators.

“The whole deal is moderation,” Dobson said. “People come in, we skin type them and give them a moderate, controlled tan.”

She said a healthy amount of tanning, depending on skin type, is about three 15-minute tanning sessions a week.

“Maybe there should be stricter laws for making sure you have parents consent,” Dobson said. “Most of the time parents come in with them for the first time. Being in a small town, I don’t have a lot of fake notes. But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t get any.”

In May, the state Assembly approved Nation’s bill by a vote of 41 to 30. In early July, the bill failed in the Senate, receiving nine of 28 votes. But it is in line to be reconsidered by the Senate and on track to be voted on next week.

“It will be a tight vote, but I expect to get the votes,” Nation said.

The bill is sponsored by the California Society of Dermatology and Dermatologic Surgery. The idea for the legislation came not from Nation, but from a resident in his district who is a dermatologist.

“I think I’ve learned a whole lot more about tanning beds in the last few months,” Nation said.

But what if the bill is signed into law? Won’t it have an impact on the tanning industry?

“It will have an economic impact in several different ways,” Nation said. “No.1, kids who are going to tanning salons will start being offered spray-on tans. And down the road, fewer people will die from cancer, which suggests a very positive economic impact.”

Dobson agreed that if the bill becomes law more teen-age girls will end up getting spray-on tans, which is more expensive. She also said that limiting access to tanning beds would be counterproductive because adequate sunlight is crucial for a human’s production of vitamin D, which helps prevent cancer and keep bones strong.

Dr. Martin Salm, a dermatologist at Stateline, said that the human body doesn’t need much sunlight to produce an adequate amount of vitamin D.

“It’s different in everybody,” Salm said. “I think a little sun makes plenty vitamin D. You just need to get a little sun a couple times a year.”

– Gregory Crofton can be reached at (530) 542-8045 or by e-mail at