County Council Member Proposes Law to Ban Most Teens From Using Tanning Beds

County Council Member Proposes Law to Ban Most Teens From Using Tanning Beds

Tom Hucker says bill comes after similar measure has failed to pass at the state level

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Inside a tanning bed

Flickr user Emergency Brake

A County Council member on Tuesday introduced a bill that would ban minors from using tanning beds and require salons in Montgomery County with tanning beds to post warning signs about the risk of skin cancer associated with the devices.

Tom Hucker, who represents Silver Spring and much of the eastern portion of the county, told Bethesda Beat the measure fits with previous county legislation aimed at safeguarding residents’ health.

The county was among the first jurisdictions in the country to ban smoking inside all bars and restaurants and, in recent years, has banned smoking both traditional cigarettes and electronic cigarettes outdoors in public places.

Last year, the council passed a highly controversial measure that will ban the use of some federally approved pesticides on private lawns starting in 2018. Advocates pointed to evidence that pesticides can cause cancer in young children.

“I think it fits with the health and safety laws that we’ve passed in Montgomery County, that Montgomery County is usually a leader on,” Hucker said of his proposed legislation. “There’s plenty of research that shows using tanning beds can be dangerous, especially for kids under 18.”

Hucker, who was a state delegate before being elected to the council in 2014, said efforts in the General Assembly to pass a statewide ban on minors using tanning beds have failed, in part because tanning salons objected to the proposal. His bill would ban anyone under the age of 18 from using the beds.

Hucker has widespread support for the Montgomery County bill from council colleagues. At least seven of the other eight members asked to be added to the bill as co-sponsors, including council President Nancy Floreen. The public hearing on the measure is set for March 22.

“I’m sure there will be some interesting views there,” Floreen remarked.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended that children under 18 never use tanning beds, which emit ultraviolet rays meant to mimic the sun. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control has said young people are in greater danger than their parents of developing cancer from exposure to indoor tanning beds.

A manager at Bethesda tanning salon At the Beach Tanning, who said Tuesday she was speaking on behalf of salon owner Sormeh Youssefieh, told Bethesda Beat the vast majority of the salon’s teenage clients opt for spray tans instead of using the tanning bed.

In accordance with state law, those under 18 who want to use a tanning bed must have a parent come into the salon to fill out a release form that specifies whether they will use the bed for a single session or on an unlimited basis.

“We have very, very few people under 18 who tan with the beds,” the manager said. “The bulk of the under-18 people who tan here using the beds are tanning to get ready for a vacation. Maybe they’re going on a cruise with their parents and they don’t want to worry about burning, so they do a couple sessions for protection.”

Hucker’s bill would also require signage in tanning salons warning of the dangers associated with using a tanning bed, including burning and the cancer risk.

The At the Beach Tanning manager said Youssefieh hasn’t yet taken a position on Hucker’s bill.

“I personally believe everything should be done in moderation,” she said. “It’s important to educate people about the dangers, but at the same time, let them make their own decisions. There are good and bad reasons for everything.”

Michael Dalakis, a partner in Bethesda salon Ninotch, said his business decided eight years ago not to use tanning beds and offers only airbrush tanning.

“I just think people don’t realize how much UV exposure they’re getting. They just think 20 minutes in a bed, how bad can it be?” Dalakis said. “When it becomes something that is more than just once in a while,  that’s when it becomes dangerous.”

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