A tanning-bed ban for teens that had been controversial in years’ past has made it beyond a key legislative deadline and is no longer drawing opposition from the industry. Joseph Levy, the scientific advisor for the American Suntanning Association, was at the statehouse this week as a bill to prohibit minors from using commercial tanning beds passed a senate committee.
“We’re supporting it because we believe we need to move to a higher level discussion on the nuances of the sun care message,” Levy says.
A similar bill was discussed last year by three senators who heard Ames dermatologist Leslie Christenson say the ultraviolet rays from tanning beds are “a known carcinogen.”
“Right up there with tobacco and asbestos,” Christenson said during a subcommittee meeting a year ago. “…We’re a bit behind in how we’re regulating these.”
The industry disputes that. Levy says 17 percent of smokers get lung cancer, while the risk of getting melanoma is 0.3 percent for tanning bed users.
“There are many proponents in the literature today of getting UV exposure…in a moderate, non-burning fashion,” Levy says.
Critics like the association for Iowa dermatologists disagree. Those doctors call tanning beds “dangerous” and say indoor tanning increases skin cancer risk by 75 percent. The latest statistics indicate nearly 30 percent of the U.S. population has used a tanning bed at one point in their life and Levy says about two percent of the clients who use tanning facilities are minors.
“UV is the body’s natural way to make vitamin D,” Levy says. “There are many people who tan for that reason.”
According to the association for Iowa dermatologists, “just one indoor tanning session increases users’ chances of developing melanoma by 20 percent.” The bill which bans minors from businesses that rent tanning bed time is now ready for debate in the Iowa Senate.