Raleigh, N.C. — Legislation in the state House suggests some people may be too young to tan.
House Bill 18 would bar anyone younger than 18 from using a tanning bed unless they first obtained a physician's prescription. Parental consent wouldn't even be enough to allow a youth to tan, if the proposal is approved.
"We have strong, strong, irrefutable evidence that this is the best thing to do," said bill sponsor Rep. Jim Fulghum, R-Wake.
Fulghum, a physician, said the Youth Skin Cancer Prevention Act is one of the first things he wants to accomplish in his freshman term in the House.
"We are now aware of the severe scientific evidence coming in that some bad things have happened with excessive exposure to UVA and UVB (radiation)," he said.
Thirty-two other states have some form of age restriction for indoor tanning. California and Vermont ban it for anyone under 18, while the others require parental consent.
A similar bill was introduced in the Senate two years ago, but it died in committee. Fulghum said his bill – he calls it a "public health measure" – has strong support from the Republican majority in the House.
"It would definitely hurt business because we have a lot of girls who come in and do things like pageants and get ready," said Jenna Groat, assistant manager of a Planet Beach tanning salon in Raleigh.
Groat estimated that 20 to 40 percent of the salon's customers are younger than 18.
"I feel like, if the parents are OK with letting their child tan with their consent, then I think that’s ... really their right to say 'yes' or 'no' to that, and I don’t feel like anyone should tell them what they can and can't do," she said.
Fulghum said that argument "is tantamount to saying it's their right to let (their children) drink under 18," and he said he doesn't expect stiff opposition from parents or the tanning industry.
"They have to admit – their literature shows – their job is to expose people to about 12 times the strength of the sun," he said of tanning salons.