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Tanning law burns underage users

Thursday, April 16, 2009

(Photo)
Photo by Emily McIntosh
Doctors, parents and, now, politicians are becoming concerned with the growing number of teens using tanning beds and other tanning equipment to get that nice golden tan that has become popular in movies and in fashion magazines. Tanning has also been a growing concern with skin cancer and premature aging.

Act 707, a bill that the governor signed into law April 1, will require all Arkansas residents under 18 to have their parent or legal guardian's consent before they use a tanning bed or any other tanning equipment that uses ultraviolet or other types of lamps to tan the body.

According to the bill, which is by Rep. Bruce Maloch of Magnolia, "Before allowing an initial exposure at a tanning facility of a person under 18 years of age, the owner or operator shall witness the person's parent or legal guardian signing and dating a warning statement as follows:

"Warning statement: This statement must be read and signed by a parent or legal guardian of any person under 18 years of age before allowing the initial exposure at this tanning facility.

"Danger -- ultraviolet radiation warning. Follow instructions. Avoid overexposure. As with natural sunlight, overexposure can cause eye and skin injury and allergic reactions. Repeated exposure may cause premature aging of the skin and skin cancer. Wear protective eyewear. Failure to use protective eyewear may result in severe burns or long-term injury to the eyes. Medications or cosmetics may increase your sensitivity to the ultraviolet radiation. Consult a physician before using sunlamp or tanning equipment if you are using medications or have a history of skin problems or believe yourself to be especially sensitive to sunlight.

"I have read the above warning and understand what it means before undertaking any tanning equipment exposure."

As of yet, there are no penalties for breaking this law. The bill is more to make young people aware that skin cancer has been associated with frequent tanning.

However, for some teenagers, this law is not very popular. "From the mind of an everyday tanner, if you really want to tan, you will try and do it in the most responsible and safe way," Salem High School junior Maggie Pleasant said. "The first day of tanning, I read the warnings of a tanning bed. I go by the rules, and my friends say they do the same. If you're going to go and try to make the minimum tanning age to be 18, you might as well go and not allow anyone 18 and younger outdoors because the sun does almost the same damage."

Another Salem High School student, Annie Smith, said, "I think that being 18 to tan in a tanning bed is just ridiculous. If we have our parents' permission, then kids under 18 should be allowed to tan. The government cannot run our lives or tell our parents how to raise us."

Before Gov. Mike Beebe signed the act into law, some tanning facilities already had a similar process that required parents' permission before their teenager used a tanning bed. Locally, there is at least one place that has a similar policy. The Hair Hut in Salem on Highway 62/412 requires those who are under 18 to have permission from their parents before they use the tanning bed.

According to The Hair Hut owner, those under 18 have to come in with their parents or guardians. The owner said there is a form each customer under 18 must fill out and have their parents sign. Included in the form are questions about medications that would cause sensitivity to sunlight, allergic reactions to sunlight, how easily the customer tans and other questions about skin and outdoor sun exposure. The form stresses the use of protective eyewear while using the tanning bed. It states, "The use of the Suntan Unit without protective eyewear can cause the early formation of cataracts and/or temporary or permanent blindness." The Hair Hut provides protective eyewear back in the tanning room.

The owner said she does not allow her customers to have tanning sessions two days in a row because she wants her customers to be both safe and comfortable with their tan.



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