A House committee will consider Wednesday whether Pennsylvania should ban teens from tanning salons.
The proposal keeps anyone under 18 from using an indoor tanning bed. Sponsor RoseMarie Swanger, a Lebanon County Republican, is convinced the tanning beds cause melanoma, which her younger sister is now battling. “One of my colleagues did ask me – he said, ‘Don’t people have the right to make stupid decisions?’ And my response to him was, yes, if you’re an adult,” she explained. “But if you’re a child, I think we owe children our protection from anything we could control that would prevent them from having to go through this later in life.”
The American Academy of Pediatrics recently called for a national ban on teens using tanning beds, warning, “The intensity of ultraviolet-A radiation produced by large, powerful tanning units may be 10 to 15 times higher than that of the midday sun.”
A national trade group, the Indoor Tanning Association, insists the concern is unfounded, and the legislation is a government overreach.
“I can just assure you that there’s absolutely no proof that using a tanning bed causes melanoma,” said its executive director, John Overstreet.
He argued the beds’ ultraviolet lights aren’t any more dangerous than the sun. “Ultraviolet light is ultraviolet light, whether it comes from the sun or whether it comes from an indoor tanning bed,” he said. “And moderation is the key. And just like outdoor sunlight, you have risks and you have benefits. And you have to avoid overexposure. You definitely have to avoid…getting a sunburn.”
The bill would charge salons with a criminal offense if they let teens in to tan. Swanger called the penalty an oversight, and promised to amend the legislation in committee.
“I don’t agree with sending anyone to jail for violating this law,” she said. “But I would certainly advocate for a civil penalty of a substantial fine for a first offense. And then any other offense after that, just a loss of license.”