Indiana one of many states aiming to ban tanning

(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)
(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Lawmakers’ efforts to crack down on the use of Indiana tanning beds this year are part of a national push to limit young people’s exposure to risks that include skin cancer.

Indiana is one of 33 states that regulate tanning. The state currently requires parental or guardian supervision for anyone under 16 to use tanning beds. Those ages 17 and 18 need permission to go to a tanning salon alone.

That could change under a bill that passed the House last week and is headed back to the Senate for one last review.

This year’s bill from Sen. Patricia Miller, R-Indianapolis, represents a compromise after a measure last year that would have barred everyone under age 18 from using tanning salons failed. Miller’s current bill limits the ban to those under 16.

Supporters say the measure is a good first step, while opponents say it goes too far.

“We’re headed in the right direction,” said Dr. Lawrence Mark, an Indiana University skin cancer expert. “This is one step getting the foot in the door.”

Nearly every state has moved to restrict or ban tanning among minors since California and then Vermont banned tanning for anyone under 18 in 2012.

Lawmakers in Iowa, where a ban failed last year, are taking another run at it this year.

“People are paying a little bit more attention to it,” said Iowa Rep. Lisa Heddens, a Democrat. “There’s more awareness out there, so it’s getting a little more traction because of the issue.”

Heddens’ bill hasn’t made it to a full House vote this year, although a similar bill is under Senate review. She says lawmakers are wary of placing more regulations on businesses.

Marcy DeShong, who owns several Bronze Bay Tanning salons in Indiana, said she isn’t worried about losing business because most of her customers are 17 or 18.

DeShong and national lobbyists such as the Indoor Tanning Association have other issues with the bill, including concerns that it steps on parents’ toes.

Others say the bill doesn’t go far enough and likely won’t be as effective if it only targets tanners younger than 16.

“They call it progress because something’s done versus nothing,” said Amanda Estridge, director of Indiana government relations for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network. “Moving a weak law forward, we see that as unjust.”

Indianapolis resident Deena Albin, 41, wants to ban tanning for anyone under 21. She was diagnosed with skin cancer when she was pregnant with her second child, five months after she ramped up her tanning routine to get the perfect glow for her wedding.

“Kids that who are 16 or 18 really just don’t have that thought process,” said Albin, who is now cancer-free. “Some parents just do whatever their kids want them to do so they can be cool.”

Criticism from both sides means lawmakers working to pass the ban must walk a careful line between pressing regulations too far and not pressing hard enough.

“I, for one am not someone who likes to limit people’s choices,” said bill sponsor Rep. Dennis Zent, R-Angola. But “we need regulation that’s proven to be effective.”

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