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California considers banning indoor tanning for minors

May 2, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
California could soon be the first state in the nation to ban children 18 years old and younger from using indoor tanning booths.

"I was diagnosed with malignant melanoma, and it was quite shocking," said Lisa Andrews. From the age of 16 years old to her early 20's, Andrews religiously used a tanning bed. Her dermatologist blames the cancer on her seemingly harmless habit.

"Due to my heavy usage, she believes that the tanning beds played a major role in my melanoma," said Andrews.

A Senate committee is considering banning Californians under the age of 18 years old from using a tanning bed.

Currently only those under 14 years old are prohibited, and kids up to the age of 17 years old can do so with parental permission.

According to Aim at Melanoma Foundation, those who use tanning beds before the age of 35 years old increase their lifetime risk of cancer by 75 percent.

"There is a very good and safe alternative, and that's spray tanning," said State Senator Ted Lieu from Torrance. "There's no carcinogen effect to that. Celebrities like Snookie on Jersey Shore, have switched to spray tanning, as well as others."

But a San Diego State study about to be published by the American Journal of Public Health found laws restricting minors from indoor tanning are ineffective in reducing use.

"It's actually going to increase injury," said Jospeh Levy from International Smart Tan Network. "It's going to drive people to beaches and home-tanning units, which are completely unregulated."

Tanning salon owners said parental permission for minors is enough. With up to 10 percent of clients under 18 years old, it is a loss they could ill afford in this recession.

"There's a possibility of 10 percent loss of business," said Bill Sanders from Palm Beach Tan. "Which would equate to my one store to about $70,000 in revenue. It'll cost me three jobs."

"I'm six years cancer-free this month," said Andrews. "But I do live with that constant fear, wondering if, when the melanoma will come back."