A bill that would ban teens under 18 from using indoor tanning salons passed the House Health Committee Tuesday, but not without more accusations of misinformation on both sides.
House Bill 18 was held up last week after opponents of the ban complained they had not been given time to present their side's arguments.
The committee heard testimony Tuesday from Pinehurst tanning salon owner Jim Bivens. He said the current requirement for parental consent for teens between 14 and 17 is sufficient regulation.
"This bill is not doing anything to help small business. It’s doing nothing but hurt it," Bivens said. "This is 25 percent of my business that this takes away."
With about 2,600 tanning salons in North Carolina, Bivens warned, "If this impacts about 25 percent of our business, that’s about 5,200 employees that are potentially out of work."
"Are we going to run around and stop kids from suntanning when we let 15- and 16-year-olds drive cars at 70 mph?" he asked. "I don’t see where this bill’s going."
The committee also heard again from tanning industry advocate Joseph Levy, who insisted that medical professionals were misleading lawmakers about the data linking tanning to cancer.
"There absolutely IS debate about the role – and defining the role – that UV plays in the development of melanoma skin cancer," Levy insisted, citing a 2011 meta-analysis by Norwegian physicist Johan Moan.
Dr. Kelly Nelson of the Duke University Melanoma Center accused Levy of misinforming the committee and misusing research papers "to confuse the issues about this bill."
"Dermatologists and pediatricians and family physicians and oncologists from all over the state ask you to support this legislation," Nelson said. "It’s certainly not to benefit our bottom line. This legislation will hopefully lead to a reduction in business for me."
Rep. Marilyn Avila, R-Wake, was still skeptical. "I find it hard to come down on one side or the other when there is still a question about the validity" of the research, she said.
"We can ban by law (teens') use of a suntan bed – but you and I both know we’re not going to ban their use of a suntan bed," she said, warning that teens would just turn to tanning beds in private homes or spend more time lying out in the sun.
As for concerns about higher skin cancer risk, Avila said children and teens die every day in car accidents. "Are we going to ban them from riding in automobiles?"
But Rep. Jim Fulghum, R-Wake, a doctor, said the most recent meta-analysis of UV studies, published in 2012, leaves no doubt about the link between UV exposure and cancer.
"To not act on recent evidence would be putting our heads in the sand," Fulghum said.
The measure was approved on a voice vote, but it was not unanimous. It now goes to the House Regulatory Reform Committee.