Raleigh, N.C. — A ban on the use of indoor tanning beds by teens under 18 appears headed for full Senate approval after a strong vote – and vocal support from Republican caucus leaders – in the Senate Health Committee on Tuesday.
The vote on House Bill 158 came after testimony from both sides, witnessed by Dr. Mary Susan Fulghum, the widow of late Rep. Jim Fulghum, in whose honor the bill is named.
Fulghum, who passed away in office in 2014, was an ardent foe of the use of tanning beds by teens under 18. Under current law, parents must give written permission for teens to tan, but Fulghum and other health advocates argued that requirement is easily circumvented.
Dr. Diana McShane, a dermatologist at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, told the panel that 76 percent of the melanoma cases in women between ages 19 and 30 "can be attributed to tanning beds specifically."
"I know we’ve had complaints from a lot of mothers, but I think, if they saw what happened to these children who got skin cancer, they would certainly be for this bill," sponsor Rep. Pat Hurley, R-Randolph, told the panel.
Hurley was one of several lawmakers who spoke about their own experiences with skin cancer. Sen. Tommy Tucker, R-Union, pointed out the scar from a skin cancer removal on his forehead.
"I have been burned and cut and scarred well over 50 times, much from being in a tobacco patch in eastern North Carolina with no skin protection growing up," Tucker said.
Tucker said his wife and daughter had given him a gift certificate for pedicures – "You guys who are not secure in your own masculinity ought to try it," he joked – at a local nail salon that also offers indoor tanning.
"Along around prom time, young girls would go in and literally come out of those tanning booths looking like lobsters," he said, adding that industry members have told him that spray-on tans, which are rising in popularity, "are more profitable and certainly are safer."
However, Indoor Tanning Association lobbyist Michael Houser, representing about 800 North Carolina tanning salons, warned the committee that the teen ban "would regulate a large number of these tanning salons out of business."
"Over-regulation and taxes are killing this industry," Houser said. “The decision regarding whether a teen should tan should be up to the parent and not the government."
After the committee voted unanimously in favor of the bill, Mary Fulghum, a retired ob/gyn, thanked Senate leaders for allowing the bill to have a hearing and vote – something it has never been able to gain in sessions past.
She called the bill's movement in the Senate "a tremendous gift to our family."
"I cannot thank you enough," she said, her voice breaking, as the committee rose to give her a standing ovation.
The legislation now goes to the Senate floor. If it passes unamended, its next stop would be the governor's desk.