Politics & Government

SC teens who want tans would have to go outside under proposed tanning-bed bill

Debra’s Story: Why tanning is not worth it

It’s estimated one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime and melanoma accounts for 75 percent of skin cancer deaths. It’s a good reason to wear your sunscreen and keep an eye on changes to your skin.
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It’s estimated one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime and melanoma accounts for 75 percent of skin cancer deaths. It’s a good reason to wear your sunscreen and keep an eye on changes to your skin.

Children under the age of 18 would be banned from using tanning beds in South Carolina under a measure being considered in the S.C. House.

A panel of legislators heard testimony Wednesday on the bill to bar minors from using tanning beds in an effort to prevent teen skin cancer. The bill is being pushed by the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, which notes indoor-tanning devices are listed as cancer-causing by the World Health Organization.

The District of Columbia and 17 state already have enacted bans, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

“I knew several girls who started tanning in high school, and I worry they may someday have to have large portions of their once-healthy skin cut from their bodies,” University of South Carolina senior Olivia Reszczynski told legislators. “It makes me sad to think someday these trips to the tanning bed may cost them not just their looks, but their lives.”

State law now requires anyone under 18 to have written permission from a parent or legal guardian before they can use tanning services. Parents must accompany their child on the child’s first visit to tanning facility and sign the permission statement in the presence of a tanning salon operator, according to the state Department of Health and Environmental Control’s website.

The Cancer Action Network, however, argues parental-consent laws, like South Carolina’s, have not helped reduce indoor tanning among teens. It says a prohibition is needed to protect youth from the harmful effects of artificial UV radiation given off by tanning lamps. Light from those lamps is more concentrated and damaging than sunlight, a dermatologist testified.

Nearly 22 percent of S.C. girls in the 12th grade reported using a tanning bed one or more times in the past 12 months, higher than the national average of 16 percent, according to a 2015 survey of risky youth behavior.

“Studies show that an indoor tanning device used before age 35 increases the risk of melanoma by almost 60 percent,” and from 30 percent to almost 70 percent for other forms of cancer, Dr. Ann Harriott Ervin, president of the S.C. Academy of Dermatology and Dermatologic Surgery told lawmakers.

The proposal before the House would require tanning facilities to post permanent signs informing customers of the age requirement. Businesses that violate the law would be subject to a $500 civil penalty.

No businesses testified before the subcommittee.

Nationwide, skin cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer, and rates have been rising for the past 30 years, according to the Cancer Society.

Rates of skin cancer in South Carolina have been on the rise over the past decade. This year, an estimated 1,810 South Carolinians will be diagnosed with melanoma, the group says.

Legislators voted, 2-1, to advance the bill to the full S.C. House Medical, Military, Public and Municipal Affairs Committee, recommending its passage.

The lone opponent — state Rep. Jonathan Hill, R-Anderson — argued the bill goes too far, and the key to protecting teens from skin cancer lies in informed parental consent and enforcing current state regulations.

“When you start taking options away from people, I mean, where does it stop?” Hill said after the meeting. “I’m all about protecting life. ... (But), it simply isn’t possible for us to regulate away any danger of ever getting cancer. We’re not going to end cancer by regulation.”

Tom Barton covers South Carolina politics for The State. He has spent more than a decade covering local governments and politicians in Iowa and South Carolina, and has won awards from the S.C. Press Association and Iowa Newspaper Association for public service and feature writing.

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