The WHO move to reclassify tanning beds in the same category as plutonium has sparked a number of initiatives aimed at restricting tanning bed access, especially by minors.
Online PR News – 12-March-2010 – – Minneapolis, MN--Although tanning beds operators are gearing up for the annual rush of college students anxious to tan before going on spring break, all indications are that in the not-so-distant future it is going to be harder to obtain an in-door tan.
The anti-skin cancer community has known for years that indoor tanning exponentially increases the risk of skin cancer, however the issue gained world-wide attention last summer when the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) moved UV tanning beds to its highest cancer risk category -- "carcinogenic to humans." The WHO now classifies tanning beds as dangerous to humans as mustard gas, plutonium, arsenic and cigarettes.
The reclassification gave momentum to initiatives to restrict tanning beds usage, especially for minors, and it sparked new ones on both the state and federal levels.
Howard County, Maryland became the model for anti-tanning efforts by passing a law in November banning minors from using tanning beds. Health officials cited studies showing that people under the age of 35 who are exposed to indoor tanning have a 75% increased risk of skin cancer, including melanoma, the deadliest type of skin cancer.
Currently, some 17 states, including Florida and Hawaii, are considering new restrictions on tanning beds. Proposed legislation ranges from an outright ban on minors access to indoor tanning to exceptions for those with notes from their parents or physicians. At least 29 states already restrict tanning by minors.
The new efforts to restrict tanning beds usage by minors haven’t escaped notice on the federal level. Proposed health care reform legislation includes a new ten percent tax on tanning beds. In addition, a new bill, recently introduced by U.S. Reps. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and Charlie Dent (R-PA) would expand federal regulation of tanning beds. The Tanning Bed Cancer Control Act would limit the amount of UV rays emitted by tanning beds and the time consumers may be exposed to harmful radiation.
Tanning operators are feeling the heat from another direction as well. Regulators have already moved to curtail advertising claims. The Federal Trade Commission will soon vote on making its settlement with the Indoor Tanning Association permanent. That settlement prohibits the Association from making false health and safety claims about indoor tanning.
In addition, this month the U.S. Food and Drug Administration will hold public hearings to explore stricter tanning beds regulations, stiffer warnings and other steps. The FDA already regulates tanning beds, but as "Class I devices," a category of low-risk medical devices that includes bandages. Tanning beds do bear some warnings about the cancer link, but the FDA recently decided those labels aren't visible enough to consumers and don't fully convey the risk, especially to young people.
It is the risk to minors that is prompting these initiatives. A 2002 study that appeared in the Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics showed that at least 25 percent of girls aged 15-18 have used tanning beds with even higher percentages reported by older teens.
Although tanning beds dangers are beginning to be very well known, teens may be more influenced by cultural trends including changes in perceptions of skin health and beauty, aging, celebrity anti-tanning activism and iconic events such as the popular Twilight series.