Children under 18 in Nebraska could not go to tanning salons under a proposal heard by a legislative committee Friday.
Omaha Sen. Jeremy Nordquist calls his proposal to keep youngsters out of tanning salons the "Skin Cancer Prevention Act." David Watts, a skin cancer surgeon, supported the proposal.
"Just as tobacco causes lung cancer, indoor tanning causes melanoma. Minors can’t buy tobacco now. Lung cancer rates are going down, showing that government action can save lives. Unfortunately, with no checks in place on indoor tanning, one in four 17 year old girls tans indoors. And skin cancer rates are soaring," Watts told the Health and Human Services Committee.
Kasey Shriver, who’s 20, said she started tanning at age 14 and was diagnosed with malignant melanoma at 17. She talked about telling fellow members of her high school basketball team she wouldn’t be able to finish out the season. "Some cried, some were confused, and one girl walked out of the gym and said she would rather die tan and pretty than be pale and ugly for the rest of her life," Shriver said. "This is exactly why the bill is so important to me."
Opponents called the proposal heavyhanded. Heather Almond, a tanning salon manager, suggested it could backfire with teens determined to get a tan, regardless of the source of ultraviolet light. "With UV light, it’s everywhere. We can’t keep it out of their hands. Teens are going to lay out for hours in the sun without proper protection. They’re going to use their neighbors’ tanning bed for an unlimited amount of time. And we will start to see teens with severe burns because there is nobody there to regulate it," she said.
Other opponents suggested dermatologists were supporting the proposal because they could charge teens more for doctor-approved photolight therapy. Deb Davis is the mother of two children with excema who said they need light therapy, but they can get it at a tanning salon.
"The cost of photolight therapy is 90 times the expense out of our pocket, compared to tanning with the same effect," she said. Davis said the bill would make it financially impossible for her daughter to continue tanning, which is helping her condition.
The Health and Human Services Committee took no immediate action on the bill.