JEFFERSON CITY - Proposed legislation in Missouri could dim the future of some Missouri tanning salons.
Robert Cooper, R-Camdenton, a medical doctor, is sponsoring a bill requiring tanning salons to obtain licenses from the state's Health Department.
In addition to requiring facilities to obtain and post licenses, the bill also prohibits individuals younger than 16 from tanning and requires those under the age of 18 to obtain written parental permission. Under the bill, facilities would be required to get customer signatures before using tanning equipment and prior to every contract renewal for long-term tanning services.
Rep. Rob Schaaf, R-St. Joseph, , a colleague of Cooper's in both the legislature and the medical community, said it's important for tanning businesses to be regulated.
"You have to have a license to cut hair, but not to shine powerful rays at people's skin," Schaaf said.
But John Overstreet, spokesman for the Indoor Tanning Association said parts of the bill are unnecessary.
"It's an expensive proposition for negligible results," Overstreet said.
Overstreet said that in the current economic climate, tanning businesses are already suffering.
The bill wouldn't just cost tanning facilities money, Overstreet said, but also 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.
Dr. John Despain, past president of the Missouri Dermatological Association, said limiting children's ability to tanning and clarifying risks are the most important part of the bill. The Missouri Dermatological Association has supported similar legislation for four years.
A practicing dermatologist, Despain said he sees patients on a regular basis with skin conditions casued by tanning such as melanoma skin cancer. 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.
Overstreet said the bill's age limitations are not constructive because children cannot sign contracts to tan anyway without the permission of a parent or legal guardian. 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.
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.
Overstreet said, however, 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 wont pay attention," Overstreet said. "Just like the sun, you have to be careful to not get burned."
Earlier this year the Federal Trade Comission (FTC) 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 outoor tanning.
According to the FTC press release, both of these claims are false.
The House Health Policy committee will hold a hearing on the bill Wednesday.