State eyes tan ban for ages 16 and younger

Among the estimated 27 million indoor tanning customers Among the estimated 27 million indoor tanning customers in the U.S. today, a growing percentage now choose to purchase their own tanning beds and tan in the convenience of their home. Photo Credit: PR NEWSWIRE/Anonymous

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ALBANY -- Indoor tanning salons would be off limits to children 16 years old and younger under legislation agreed to by state legislative leaders. Seventeen-year-olds would continue to be able to use tanning beds with parental consent.

Legislators and health advocates say the restriction is necessary because of documented increases in both the use of tanning salons by teenagers and skin cancers such as melanoma.

"The harmful effects of UV exposure accumulate over time, which means skin damage inflicted at an early age can cause major health problems down the road," Assemb. Harvey Weisenberg (D-Long Beach), who sponsored the bill, said in a statement.

The bill passed the Assembly Thursday and goes to the Senate next week. Sen. Charles Fuschillo Jr. (R-Merrick), who sponsored the bill in the Senate, said both houses had agreed on it. Rich Azzopardi, a spokesman for Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, said the governor's office will review the bill.

Fuschillo said scientific evidence has "demonstrated the potential dangers with the youth of today going to tanning salons. . . . This is a protective measure."

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New cases of melanoma in the state increased from 1,926 in 1998 to 3,479 in 2008, according to the state Health Department. The annual melanoma incidence rate per 100,000 people also increased during that time, from 13.1 to 21.6 for men and from 8.2 to 13.3 for women.

The American Cancer Society, which lobbied for the ban, has cited a 2008 study of teenagers in Chicago that showed the number of teens reporting indoor tanning bed use increased from 1 percent in 1988 to 27 percent in 2007.

The issue had been in the news recently because of the case of exceedingly tan New Jersey mother Patricia Krentcil, who was accused by police of bringing her 5-year-old daughter into a tanning booth, according to The Associated Press. She denies the charge.

Current New York law bans children 13 and younger from using ultraviolet radiation tanning devices and allows children ages 14 through 17 to go to tanning salons with parental permission.

The measure originally would have banned 17-year-olds as well. That bill passed the Assembly earlier this year. But Weisenberg said his house lowered the age to 16 to reach an agreement with the Senate after the tanning industry raised objections.

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The American Cancer Society of New York and New Jersey hailed the agreement as an important protection for those children covered and vowed to work to expand the ban to include 17-year-olds in the future.

"It's a significant protection for 14-, 15- and 16-year-olds; we think 17-year-olds should be entitled to the same protection," said Blair Horner, vice president for advocacy for the cancer society in the Northeast.

The Indoor Tanning Association, a Washington, D.C.-based trade group, lobbied against the bill. The group has said the government should not take away parenting decisions by banning tanning salons for children.

However, Brittany Jackobel, manager of Boca Tanning Club in Huntington Station, supported the bill. "I think it's a good thing, actually," she said. "It alleviates a lot of stress on my end. . . . I don't think it's safe for people under 16 to tan anyway."

Megan Wakely, manager of Sun City Tanning in Floral Park, said the bill would not have a noticeable impact on business. "Primarily anyone under the age of 17 does an airbrush [spray-on tan] -- and it's just for prom," she said.

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With David Uberti

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