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Mixed Reactions As Lawmaker Revives Effort To Ban Minors From Tanning Beds

MGN Online

A Florida lawmaker is hoping to bring back a discussion about the best way to prevent skin cancer in younger people. Her measure bans minors from using tanning beds.

There are already several states that ban minors from using tanning beds and Sen. Eleanor Sobel (D-Hollywood) says she wants the Sunshine State to join them. Florida minors already have to get parental consent, but Sobel says that’s not enough.

“Would you believe that Florida has more tanning salons—1,261 tanning salons—than McDonald’s—868,” said Sobel.  “Don’t we live in the Sunshine State? Why do we need to pay for artificial carcinogenic tanning machines, when sunshine is available most days free of charge? Scientific evidence is overwhelming. Tanning machines cause cancer.”

And, she adds she wants to protect young people from getting the deadly disease.

“Florida ranks second in the nation in melanoma cases with an estimated 4,920 new cases diagnosed alone in 2009,” Sobel continued. “Melanoma is the second most common form of cancer for 15 to 29 year olds and the number one cancer for 25 to 29 year olds. This bill would prohibit minors from going to tanning salons unless prescribed by a physician. It’s time we acknowledged these tanning machines are dangerous to young Floridians.”

Joseph Levy from Jackson, Michigan represents the American Suntanning Association. He disputes some of Sobel’s claims.

“It’s interesting that we started by talking about that Florida has more tanning facilities than we said than McDonald’s,” he said. “It’s a false equivalency. The largest chain of tanning facilities in Florida is hundreds of times smaller than McDonald’s, the largest hamburger producer in Florida. So, it’s a false equivalency.”

He adds Sobel’s bill also doesn’t account for unintended consequences.

“People would go to unregulated tanning facilities that don’t require an operator: apartment complexes, many in universities, gyms, fitness facilities,” Levy continued. “A Rutgers University study that was published in July in the Journal of American Medical Association, one of their sub journals that deal with dermatology, shows that 41 percent of sun bed usage today is in these monitored locations, home units. So, what this bill would do would create a garage tanning industry for those who would use sun beds.”

But, Senate Democratic Leader Arthenia Joyner (D-Tampa)says at least one of Levy’s sources also agrees with Sobel’s bill.

“The information that I got that some of which I’d received indicates that the American Academy of Pediatrics have called for all U.S. tanning salons to bar minors, and other medical groups—the American Medical Association, the World health Organization, the Academy of Dermatology, and the Skin Care Foundation—are demanding a ban on indoor tanning for young people,” she said.

Comparing it to how Florida lawmakers have put pool safety legislation in place to protect minors, former Senate President Don Gaetz (R-Niceville) also called it a good bill.

“We’ve heard from parents who have suffered tragedies, as a consequence, of our not taking action to protect children from something that causes harm when not properly regulated, and that’s why it provides perfect justification for supporting Sobel’s bill,” he stated.

But, Sen. Aaron Bean (R-Jacksonville) is on the fence.

“Cause I know it’s dangerous,” he said. “I’m leery about doing anything that I think could have a detriment to my health or my family’s health. That’s on one side. On the other side, I like freedom. I like choices. If you want to do certain things, like bacon or whatever it is you want to do, then that should be your right too. So, I am just really torn.”

Still, the measure passed the Senate Health Policy Committee 6-1, with Bean as the lone dissenting vote. It has two more stops before the floor. It does not yet have a House companion. Sobel has brought this bill in the past, but it’s always died in the committee process.

For more news updates, follow Sascha Cordner on Twitter: @SaschaCordner.

Sascha Cordner has more than ten years of public radio experience. It includes working at NPR member station WUFT-FM in Gainesville for several years. She's worked in both radio and TV, serving in various capacities as a reporter, producer and anchor. She's also a graduate of the University of Florida with a bachelor's degree in telecommunications. She is the recipient of 15 awards from the Associated Press, Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), and Edward R. Murrow. Her award-winning stories include her coverage on the infamous “Dozier School for Boys” and a feature titled "Male Breast Cancer: Lost in the Sea of Pink." Currently, Sascha serves as the host and producer of local and state news content for the afternoon news program "All Things Considered" at WFSU. Sascha primarily covers criminal justice and social services issues. When she's not reporting, Sascha likes catching up on her favorite TV shows, singing and reading. Follow Sascha Cordner on Twitter:@SaschaCordner.