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Teen Tanning Bed Ban Legislation Sails Through Assembly Committee [AUDIO]

The story of the New Jersey mother accused of taking her then 5-year-old daughter into a tanning booth last month where the kindergartener allegedly sustained serious burns has gone global. The so-called tanoholic mom was even parodied during a recent Saturday Night Live sketch. Yesterday, the Assembly Women and Children Committee approved a bill that would make it illegal for anyone under the age of 18 to use an indoor tanning facility.

Tanning Bed Ban for anyone under 18?
Flickr User Hendricks Photos

According to a new American Cancer Society (ACS) study the rate of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer has increased 43% over the last decade which coincides with a boom in the indoor tanning industry.

The World Health Organization (WHO) puts tanning beds in the highest cancer risk category – group 1 – ‘carcinogenic to humans,’” says ACS, New Jersey director of advocacy, Ethan Hasbrouck. “That’s the same class as arsenic, asbestos, benzene, dioxin, mustard gas, tobacco smoke and vinyl chloride. According to the WHO, use of tanning beds before the age of 30 increases the risk of melanoma 75 percent. The bill has cleared a hurdle in the Assembly, but there is still much to do. The American Cancer Society urges the full Assembly to adopt this measure and urges the Senate to move this bill quickly through committee and onto the floor for a vote.”

Dr. Rob Paull, a board-certified dermatologist representing the Dermatological Society of New Jersey, American Academy of Dermatology Association and the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery Association says, “Despite what you may hear from opponents of this bill today, the causal relationship between UV radiation from tanning beds and the development of skin cancer is based on data from numerous scientific research studies. The science is clear. If you use indoor tanning beds, your risk of developing skin cancer significantly increases.”

Opponents fear the ban will damage small business and claim it strips the right of parents to make decisions for their own children. The bill’s sponsors point out that this is not unprecedented because there are plenty of laws to protect children. They cite, seat belt and helmet laws and the minimum drinking and smoking age.

Aly Dougherty, a 27-year-old stage 3 melanoma survivor knows firsthand the pain and suffering indoor tanning can cause. She explains, “Tanning beds are not safe for anyone, let alone kids and I have the scars to prove this. When I was a teenager I used indoor tanning often before proms and other events. I thought I was invincible. Little did I know that I would be diagnosed with skin cancer years later.”

In July, Aly will be 6-years cancer-free.

“As a 21-year-old, you’re forced into thinking; am I going to die? I mean what’s going to happen here,” says Aly. “Why isn’t anyone being protected against tanning? I went tanning. I got melanoma, but now I ask; when is this going to stop?”

In an oddly ironic twist, Aly is from Nutley as is Patricia Krentcil who was charged last month in North Jersey with child endangerment. Police say the Krentcil, whose skin is bronze-colored from her regular tanning salon visits, took her daughter into a tanning booth. The girl was 5 at the time but has since turned 6. Police say they were alerted by the kindergartener’s school in Nutley because the girl was in pain from a sunburn.

Patricia Krentcil has pleaded not guilty. She says her daughter’s burn came from the sun on an unusually warm April day and that she would never take the girl into a tanning booth.

New Jersey already bans anyone under the age of 14 from using indoor tanning. Adding further irony, when former Governor Jon Corzine signed that bill into law, he did it in Nutley. Those 14-18 must have parental permission. Last year a bill to ban indoor tanning by all minors was passed in the State Senate, but failed to make it through the full Assembly. Currently Vermont and California are only two states with such a ban. In the indoor tanning industry argues a ban like this in New Jersey could seriously hurt business.

Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi has signed on as a co-sponsor of Conaway’s bill.

She says, “When I was a teenager I oftentimes used tanning beds. At the time they were marketed as the ‘safe alternative to the sun.’ Before such events as the prom, homecoming and spring break my girlfriends and I spent hours at the tanning salons. Never did I expect that from using tanning beds I would be diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of malignant melanoma at the age of 25.”

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