COLUMBUS, Ohio – State lawmakers are considering a bill that would ban teenagers from using commercial tanning beds.
"I don't believe parents are educated to the fact of how dangerous these tanning rays can be to a young child," said state Rep. Courtney Combs, a Republican from Hamilton who sponsored the bill. "Surely to God, if you knew that, you wouldn't allow your child to go into a tanning bed."
The California Legislature, citing a rise in skin cancer cases across the nation, passed a law in 2004 that bans children under age 14 from using tanning booths without a doctor's prescription.
The bill that Combs introduced to the Ohio House last month would prohibit anyone younger than 18 from using a commercial tanning bed without a doctor's prescription for ultraviolet radiation treatments.
Ohio law currently requires minors to have parental permission before using a tanning bed.
Rep. Tom Brinkman Jr., a Cincinnati Republican who is chairman of the committee hearing the bill, dislikes the proposal. "I'm kind of for freedom," he said. "If you're going to ban this, should we ban tattoos and piercings?"
Dr. Louis Barich, a Hamilton dermatologist who helped persuade Combs to propose the bill, said people get 80 percent of their damaging exposure to ultraviolet radiation before the age of 18.
"People who don't go to tanning beds are not as likely to develop a skin cancer," Barich said.
Robert Quinn, president of Tan Pro USA, which operates 13 salons in the Columbus area and 30 in Ohio, said if you consider the intensity of the noon sun in Phoenix, there is no difference between indoor and outdoor tanning.
Although people under 18 make up less than 10 percent of his business, Quinn said the bill "would absolutely have an impact on us."
The Ohio State Board of Cosmetology regulates tanning parlor safety, hygiene and sanitation. Director Kevin Miller said there has been just one age-related violation since March 2005.
Inspectors check tanning salon log-in sheets to verify customer ages and that minors have provided signed parental permission.
Combs argues that the current parental requirement is not well enforced.
"If a teenager gets an older sibling to come in with them, a lot of times they don't even ask them to sign," he said. "It's kind of a wink and a nod."
The proposed ban goes too far, said Stephanie Geldis, 18, who works at a pool in suburban Columbus.
"If you have your parents' permission, they should allow you to do it," said Geldis, who started going to tanning salons when she was about 16, often before major events such as spring break or the prom. "It's your own body. It's your own choice."
Her mom, Debbie Geldis, also said the bill is inappropriate.
"I'm generally not a fan of tanning in a booth," she said, "but I still think that it should be a personal choice."