Legislation would keep teens from tanning beds

Posted May 25, 2011 6:08 p.m. EDT
Updated May 25, 2011 7:00 p.m. EDT

— A bill pending in the General Assembly would require anyone under 18 to get a physician's prescription to use a tanning booth.

State law now allows youths age 13 to 18 to go to a tanning parlor with parental permission, but Sen. Eric Mansfield, D-Cumberland, said the risk of contracting skin cancer from excessive exposure to the UV rays in tanning booths necessitates a medical referral.

"The outcome of this is a malignant disease that can be fatal, and that is much higher than the parental right,” said Mansfield, a Fayetteville physician.

He said he once had a teenage patient who developed melanoma, and he believes the disease was connected to her tanning bed use.

Under Senate Bill 471, physicians could approve teens going to tanning parlors to treat skin conditions like psoriasis and eczema. The prescription would specify the number of visits allowed and the length of each visit.

The Indoor Tanning Association estimated that 7 to 8 percent of business in North Carolina comes from people under 18, and tanning parlor owners said they doubt the bill would make any difference.

"(Teens) could bring anything into me. I'm not a pharmacist where I can judge if that prescription is actually valid," said Tricia Peterson, who owns the Carolina Sun salon in Hope Mills.

Peterson said a better solution would be to limit the number of times a teen can visit a tanning parlor.

She said the industry is already regulated, and teens can get just as much UV exposure outside from the sun.

"It's not like smoking or drinking where you can keep the product out of children's hands," she said. "It's a product that's available to them every day."