JEFFERSON CITY — Tanning beds will be off-limits to Missouri adolescents unless their parents first give permission under legislation Gov. Jay Nixon signed into law Thursday.
The measure calls for a parent or guardian to visit the tanning facility annually to sign a consent form before those younger than 17 are allowed to use sun lamps, tanning booths or tanning beds. Missouri's law takes effect Aug. 28, but the requirements will not be enforced until state health officials develop a standard consent form.
Nixon said in a statement that ensuring families understand the risks of indoor tanning will improve public health.
"Exposure to ultraviolet light from tanning beds puts children and teenagers at a much higher risk of developing skin cancer later in life, and this legislation will bring Missouri in line with the large and growing number of states taking steps to prevent cancer and protect kids," Nixon said.
Restrictions on tanning by minors have been enacted in more than 30 states, according to the AIM at Melanoma Foundation.
Businesses in Missouri could be fined $100 the first time an underage person tans without parental consent, $250 for a second violation and $500 for each one after that.
Critics of Missouri's legislation argued the measure amounted to government intrusion on small businesses.
Lynn Cornelius, chief of dermatology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and the Siteman Cancer Center, said the risk is greater than from normal ultraviolet light exposure. She said that children shouldn't be exposed and that providing information and educating parents is a first step.
"We really wanted to make sure that education was involved with regard to the dangers of tanning bed exposure. Particularly with children, we felt that parents were not really understanding the dangers," Cornelius said.
Cornelius said the push began about seven years ago when more doctors began to notice more young adult women being diagnosed with melanoma, a sometimes deadly skin cancer, who had used tanning beds in their youth. She said that Missouri's legislation has been supported by faculty, residents and others at Washington University and Siteman Cancer Center and that the medical school dean and leaders of pediatrics, surgery and cancer prevention sent letters supporting it.
Republican state Rep. Gary Cross of Lee's Summit has sponsored the tanning measure for several years. He said his daughter used tanning beds in her teens and was diagnosed with basal cell carcinoma on her forehead when she was in her 20s.