Gettin’ your tan on: It may get harder for KY teens

FRANKFORT – Tanning bed salons would be off limits for Kentucky’s youngsters under a bill that passed the state Senate Health and Welfare Committee on Wednesday.

Senate Bill 108 would prohibit anyone under 18 from using a commercial tanning bed. An exemption would be given for physician-prescribed phototherapy, the use of light in the treatment of physical or mental illness. Tanning beds for home use would also be exempt from the ban.

“I don’t know if there is a bill that we will hear this session that has the potential to save so many lives with so few words,” said Sen. Danny Carroll, R-Paducah, who introduced legislation.

Currently state law requires teenagers between the ages of 14 and 18 to have a signed parental consent form before they can use a tanning bed.

State Sen. Ralph Alvarado, R-Winchester, cosponsored SB 108.

“As a physician, I know the risks of using a tanning bed,” he said.

Dr. Laura Klein, a dermatologist in Louisville, testified that there were three reasons Kentucky needed SB 108. She said minors are not old enough to make an informed decision on using tanning beds, multiple scientific studies document the “unequivocal increase risk of cancer” from tanning beds and that the cost of treating skin cancer has risen 126 percent in recent years.

“I recently diagnosed a basal cell carcinoma on a beautiful UK student’s face,” Klein said. “She had been using tanning beds throughout high school and college. And unfortunately, she now has an unsightly scare on her face despite plastic-surgery reconstruction.”

She acknowledged that there is a proposed Food and Drug Administration ban on anyone under 18 using tanning beds, but said Kentucky couldn’t afford to wait.

Sen. Max Wise, R-Campbellsville, voted against SB 108 and explained.

“This is tough,” said Wise, adding that his son is a neurological cancer survivor, “but I have a difficult time when we try to legislate a parent’s decision in something like this.”

SB 108 now goes to the full Senate for consideration.

The state House of Representatives passed a similar measure, known as House Bill 196, by a 55-37 vote in February. It has been assigned to the Senate Health & Welfare Committee.

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