WASHINGTON (AP/WOOD) — The Food and Drug Administration has announced a federal proposal that would bar anyone under the age of 18 from using indoor tanning equipment.
“This has been kind of a controversial issue now for many years. Some states already were looking at regulations and banning tanning at least without parental consent for folks under 18 years of age. I think this is potentially a very important step in protecting kids from unnecessary skin exposure and from the risk of skin cancer that comes with that exposure,” Dr. James Fahner of Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital said.
The FDA also wants to require tanning bed users to sign consent forms acknowledging the risks of the radiation-emitting devices. Tanning salons and other businesses would have to collect the forms from customers before their first tanning session and every six months thereafter.
Friday’s announcement follows years of prodding by dermatologists and medical groups for bolder action on indoor tanning, citing rising rates of skin cancer among teens and people in their 20s, particularly women.
“The problem with many of our kids is simply they don’t know what the risks might be involved with the indoor tanning because this is a largely unregulated industry. We don’t know is the equipment up to date and working properly, are the operators who may be administering the indoor tanning, are they appropriately educated and kind of up to speed on all the current regulations,” Fahner said.
Susan Hayes of Jenison lost her daughter, Jillian, to melanoma in 2012.
“We’re coming up upon the third anniversary of Jillian’s death. She was 23 years old when she died and she died from melanoma cancer. She was an avid tanning bed user,” Hayes told 24 Hour News 8.
She said Jillian worked at a tanning salon in the area and would tan often.
“We had no idea that there was so many risks involved with being in a tanning bed,” Hayes said.
When she heard the news about the FDA proposing the ban, she was ecstatic.
“My first reaction was disbelief. It hit me out of left field. I didn’t realize that this was even going on behind the scenes. To me, it’s like an early Christmas gift,” she said.
Mary Greenfield, the owner of Copper Sun Tanning and Boutique in Grand Rapids, said her salon does not see a lot of minors.
“I’m not one bit worried that it would impact our business, but also everybody here is educated and promote safe tanning,” she said. “We do not have a lot of people under 18 that use the UV beds. Most of our customers who come into the store who are under 18 do air-brush tanning. The instances where we have kids under 18 is usually where parents bring them in and they’re either coming in for vacation, to prepare for vacation, which can be a good things because we have a lot of kids who have had severe burns in the past so they’ll come in and do moderation times.”
She said there are other reasons why people come in to tan as well.
“We have a ton of customers who come in for seasonal disorder or Vitamin D. I even have medical doctors who come in and tan. The other reason that most of the high school age kids come in is for prom or homecoming. A lot of them do airbrush tan. It would be very rare for us to have a person under 18 just come in and tan regularly,” she said.
Fahner doesn’t recommend teens go tanning for prom.
“We get asked by our young patients, ‘Well, I’m just getting ready for prom, I’ll look better in my prom dress if I do some indoor tanning.’ Would they feel the same way if they knew by the age of 30, their skin would begin to look really aged and damaged and injured from the effects of UV radiation?” he said.
Twenty-three states already have laws banning minors from using indoor tanning equipment.
Last year, the FDA required tanning beds and sun lamps to carry new warnings advising that they should not be used by anyone under age 18. The FDA has regulated tanning machines for over 30 years, but had previously taken little action to restrict their use.
The FDA would be able to seize machines and fine businesses that don’t follow the rules, once finalized, according to Peiris, who is a chief medical officer in the agency’s device center.
The Indoor Tanning Association said decisions about tanning should be left to parents, not the government.
Nearly 74,000 new cases of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, are expected to be diagnosed this year, and the disease is expected to cause nearly 10,000 deaths, according to the American Cancer Society. While most cases are diagnosed in people in their 40s and 50s, the disease is linked to sun exposure at a young age.
Indoor tanning beds deliver between 10 to 15 times more ultraviolet radiation than the midday sun. And people who use indoor tanning equipment face a 59 percent higher risk of melanoma than those who do not, according to the American Academy of Dermatology.
About 1.6 million U.S. teenagers tan indoors each year at more than 33,000 tanning salons, gyms, spas and other facilities that offer sun lamps and tanning beds, according to figures cited by the FDA.
A second proposal from the agency would require manufacturers of tanning equipment to make additional changes to their machines, including: bolder, easier-to-read warnings and mandating an emergency shut off switch.
The FDA will take public comments on its proposals for 90 days before beginning work to finalize them. There is no deadline for putting them in place.
Hayes said she hopes the proposal at least encourages people to research the dangers of indoor tanning.
“I don’t really understand why there would even be an opposition to protecting your children. For me, if I would have known as a mom the dangers of putting my child into a tanning bed and then later having to live with the devastation of picking up the pieces from a shattered life after you lose your child, why wouldn’t you want to know?” she said.
She has been working with the Jillian Hayes Foundation to make sure young people are aware of the dangers of tanning. One way she has been doing that is by posting billboards along Michigan highways.