House panel backs ban on tanning beds for minors

by Walter Pierce

Kids under 18 will have to pursue skin cancer the old-fashioned way.

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - Anyone under the age of 18 would be banned from using tanning beds, if lawmakers agree to a proposal overwhelmingly backed Wednesday by the House health care committee.

Rep. Helena Moreno, D-New Orleans, said her bill would lower risks of skin cancer associated with exposure to ultraviolet radiation from sunlight or tanning lamps and beds. She said she introduced the measure after hearing from dermatologists and reviewing data about the dangers associated with indoor tanning equipment.

"It was absolutely clear to me then that Louisiana needs legislation like this so we can prevent cancer cases," she told the House Health and Welfare Committee.

Under current law, teenagers from the ages of 14 to 18 can use indoor tanning facilities if they get a written statement from their parents saying they understand the risks and give their consent. Anyone under 14 years old must be accompanied by a parent.

Dermatologist Mara Haseltine said that incorrectly gives parents the general perception that tanning beds must be safe, if they are allowed for minors to use.

Haseltine, who has a practice in Metairie, supported Moreno's bill, saying tanning beds give off stronger levels of UV light than typical sun exposure, raising the risk of cancer. She said melanoma skin cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer in young people, and she said the bill would save lives and raise awareness about the dangers.

"The evidence is clear. It's getting stronger by the day. There's no debate," she said.

The proposal was supported by the Louisiana State Medical Society.

The House Health and Welfare Committee advanced the bill to the full House for debate with a 17-1 vote.

Rep. Richard Burford, R-Stonewall, was the only vote against the measure. He said he didn't want his vote to be interpreted as being "in favor of letting children suffer," but he said he disagrees with the government telling parents how to raise their children.

California, Illinois, Nevada, Texas and Vermont ban the use of tanning beds for all those under 18, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Washington's Legislature also gave final passage to a similar prohibition this week.

"It's amazing what we do for beauty and good looks. As it relates to protecting our children, I think this is a good bill," said Rep. Regina Barrow, D-Baton Rouge.

No one asked the health care committee to oppose the bill, and the owner of one tanning facility testified in support of the measure.

Brian Trascher, owner of Planet Beach Contempo Spa in Metairie, said he's never felt comfortable with people under the age of 18 coming to his store to use the tanning beds, and he said he's tried to discourage parents from allowing it, suggesting tanning spray instead.

He said Moreno's bill "can help me as a business owner by aligning my policies with my conscience."