Missouri legislation would tighten tanning regulations

Tuesday, March 2, 2010 | 10:09 p.m. CST

JEFFERSON CITY — Proposed legislation in Missouri could dim the future of some Missouri tanning salons.

Rep. Wayne Cooper, R-Camdenton, a doctor, is sponsoring a bill requiring tanning salons to obtain licenses from the state Health Department.

The legislation would require facilities to obtain and post licenses, and it would prohibit people younger than 16 from tanning. It would also require patrons ages 16 and 17 to obtain written parental permission.

In addition, tanning facilities would be required to get customer signatures before using tanning equipment and before every contract renewal for long-term tanning services.

Rep. Rob Schaaf, R-St. Joseph, also a doctor, said tanning businesses should be regulated.

"You have to have a license to cut hair but not to shine powerful rays at people's skin," Schaaf said.

John Despain, past president of the Missouri Dermatological Association, said limiting children's ability to tan and clarifying risks are the most important part of the bill. The association has supported similar legislation for four years.

A practicing dermatologist, Despain said he regularly sees patients with skin conditions, such as melanoma skin cancer, that are caused by tanning. He said he understands the economic hardship these facilities face but would like to see increased regulations.

"We're not after outlawing tanning beds; we're after responsible usage and regulations," Despain said.

Despain said tanning businesses in both the state and country have spent large sums of money to keep their industry from facing regulations. He also said tanning businesses have claimed tanning is healthy and has benefits, when, according to Despain, it can be very dangerous.

But John Overstreet, executive director of the Indoor Tanning Association, said parts of the bill are unnecessary.

"It's an expensive proposition for negligible results," he said.

Overstreet said tanning businesses already suffer in this economic climate.

The bill wouldn't just cost money for tanning facilities, Overstreet said, but also for the government. Training inspectors would pull resources away from other areas within the department and put a strain on already tight budgets, he said.

Legislative staff has yet to make the cost of the bill available.

Overstreet said the bill's age limitations are not constructive because most tanning businesses require a contract that is signed by parents if the person tanning is minor. He said the government shouldn't tell parents what to allow their kids to do.

"Parents know more about raising kids than the government does," he said.

Overstreet said there are benefits and risks to indoor tanning, and the bill's mandate for written warning requirements are not necessary. Federal law, he said, already mandates warnings both by tanning facility staff and on the tanning equipment.

"If you warn people too much, they won't pay attention," Overstreet said. "Just like the sun; you have to be careful to not get burned."

Earlier this year, the Federal Trade Commission charged the Indoor Tanning Association for making false claims in an advertising campaign aimed to highlight the benefits and safety of indoor tanning. In addition to denying indoor tanning as a cause of skin cancer, the advertisements also said the government approved indoor tanning and claimed indoor tanning was safer than outdoor tanning.

According to the commission press release, both of these claims are false.

The House Health Policy committee will hold a hearing Wednesday on the bill.

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