Missouri Considers Tanning Bill for Minors

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COLUMBIA - The national debate over the safety of tanning beds has made its way to Missouri.

Missouri's tanning bill would require anyone under the age of 17 to get their parents' consent before tanning. Previously, there have been several tanning bills in Missouri, but none of them have made it through the Senate. This year's bill passed 98-46 in the House, and is awaiting introduction in the Senate.

Six states already ban tanning for anyone under 18, and at least 33 states regulate tanning for minors.

"It has been shown that the frontal lobe, which is the main thinking reasoning part of the brain doesn't mature until 25 for guys, and women are at least 21," Missouri Cancer Associates Hematologist/Oncologist Mary Muscato said."I don't think people who are 17 have the maturity to realize the long term risk that can happen with the huge increase in melanoma if they start tanning when they are that young."

The legislation is a response to public health advocates shining light on the risks associated with indoor tanning and added exposure to ultraviolet light, especially among teens.

Muscato said people who start tanning before they are 35 have a 75 percent increase in developing melanoma, and if it is not caught early enough and spreads it is very likely to be fatal.

The federal Centers for Disease Control said patients have a 59 percent increased chance of contracting melanoma, which is the deadliest type of skin cancer.

Muscato argues there are no real benefits to indoor tanning.

"I think if you have a business that is a business that causes definite harm to so many people you've got to rethink why you have that business," Muscato said. "They can do fake tans or they can do spray on tans, but when you do something that causes definite harm with no benefit except it feels good and it is relaxing it is not worth it."

Shelia Winter, the owner of Sun and Sea Tanning, said she thinks they will lose business if the bill passes. She also said there are benefits to indoor tanning.

"I have had people come in here and say a doctor told them to go tanning," Winter said. "They are lacking Vitamin D because this winter has been terrible with sunlight deficiency, and they feel like it maybe makes a person feel better and they have gotten some sunlight."

Even though Winter is worried about losing business, that is not her main concern. She is worried that she will not be able to tell whether it is truly the minor's parents' signature.

"That is going to be a really difficult thing for me because I feel like I am a gatekeeper, and how am I going to really know," Winter said. "It is a real big responsibility for me."

If the new bill passes, Winter said she will make her own rule for her salon. She said she will not allow anyone under the age of 21, so that way she can check their ID.

If the bill passes, salons would be fined $500 for a violation.