ALBANY, N.Y. – New York health officials are ramping up their regulation of more than 2,000 tanning salons and gyms offering indoor ultraviolet rays even as health advocates push for a law banning exposure by anyone under 18.
"We're not claiming that people get addicted to tanning the same way you do nicotine, but it clearly is a habit you develop as a teenager," said Peter Slocum, vice president for advocacy at the American Cancer Society in Albany. "That's when most people start frequenting the cancer chambers."
Last year, the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer classified tanning as a definite human carcinogen, putting it in the same category as smoking.
New York law currently bans commercial indoor tanning for children under 14 and requires written parental consent for those from 14 up to 18. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 32 states regulate tanning by minors. Society spokeswoman Angela Pause-Smith said legislation to outlaw it has been introduced in about 20 states.
According to the Cancer Society, the tanning reclassification was based on a 2006 analysis concluding individuals who tanned indoors before age 30 increased their risk for melanoma by 75 percent. Another study showed teen use of tanning beds rose from 1 percent in 1998 to 27 percent a decade later.
The ACS estimates more than one million cases of basal and squamous skin cancers and 68,720 cases of melanoma this year. Its data also project 11,600 deaths from skin cancers, more than two-thirds from melanoma. The incidence of melanoma has been rising for 30 years, faster among young white women and older men, as a result of exposure to sunlight and ultraviolet radiation.
The legislation cleared Senate and Assembly committees but didn't reach the floor in either chamber before lawmakers adjourned two weeks ago.