Washington, Colorado move to ban kids from tanning beds

February 21, 2014

Perfectly fine to go tanning here (Valentina Pasquali)

Teenagers looking for that bronze sheen before spring break won’t be able to use tanning salons, under proposals moving through legislatures in Washington state and Colorado.

The proposed legislation would ban anyone under 18 from using commercial tanning beds. Supporters say keeping teenagers out of tanning beds will cut rates of melanoma and skin cancer; the American Cancer Society says using tanning beds before age 30 increases risk of melanoma by 75 percent.

The Washington State Senate passed the ban in a 40-8 vote earlier this week. That law would fine tanning salons that allow minors to use the beds $250 per violation.

A Colorado state House committee passed its own version of a ban on minors using tanning beds on a party-line vote earlier this month. The Colorado version would fine tanning bed operators $200 for each infraction.

Most states already have legislation on the books dealing with minors in tanning salons. Six states ban minors from using beds, while 25 require parental consent before minors can catch some artificial rays.

But the proposed bans had run into roadblocks in Washington and Colorado before. The Washington state ban finally moved through the Senate after winning support from a Republican senator, Curtis King of Yakima.

Several tanning salon operators testified in favor of the ban during hearings in Olympia and Denver, saying the youth market makes up only a tiny fraction of their business. But some tanning salon operators still oppose a complete ban, saying that requiring parental consent is enough of a safeguard.

“It has been our longstanding policy to require written parental consent for all clients under the age of 18 to use our facilities,” Scott Swerland, the CEO of Seattle Sun Tan, told the Puget Sound Business Journal. “The state is taking that authority out of the hands of the parents with this bill.”

A companion bill awaits action in the Washington State House. In Colorado, a second committee must approve the measure before it moves to the full House.

Reid Wilson covers state politics and policy for the Washington Post's GovBeat blog. He's a former editor in chief of The Hotline, the premier tip sheet on campaigns and elections, and he's a complete political junkie.
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