California officially bans tanning bed use by young teens

Starting January 1, California kids will have to look to sprays and bottles if they want a last-minute golden glow: On Sunday, Governor Jerry Brown officially banned anyone younger than 18 from using tanning beds.

"I believe it will help save lives and prevent unnecessary suffering," California state Senator Ted Lieu, who wrote the bill and has been trying to get it passed since 2007, told CNN.

Previously, kids age 15 to 18 could tan at a salon as long as they had a note from their parents. Now, though, parents are in the strange position of urging their teens to follow Snooki's lead. "I know that Snooki on the 'Jersey Shore' has changed to spray tanning," Lieu said. "Spray tanning has no known harmful effects, and you can get tans from lotions or cream. There are safe ways to get that brown look."

Texas has already banned the use of tanning beds by children younger than 16, and 30 other states have some kind of age restriction in place, Reuters reported. California's is the strongest state-wide restriction in place, though in some countries, like Brazil, tanning beds are banned altogether.

In California, the Indoor Tanning Association warned that the new ban will hurt women-owned businesses, since 5 percent to 10 percent of its members' customers are younger than 18. Tanning salons are already regulated by the federal Food and Drug Administration and by the California state Department of Consumer Affairs, they told Reuters. (On its website, however, the Department of Consumer Affairs writes: "The Board does not regulate tanning salons, although some licensed establishments do have tanning booths.")

The American Academy of Pediatrics has long maintained that tanning beds are harmful to children and teenagers. The ultraviolet radiation emitted by some tanning beds can be as much as 10 to 15 times higher than those from the sun during the hottest part of a summer day. All that extra UV radiation massively increases one's risk of skin cancer-especially if the exposure starts when you're young.

"Many parents may not be aware that melanoma is the most common skin cancer in children, followed by basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas," Dr. Thomas Rohrer, Secretary of the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery, said earlier this year. "Only six severe sunburns in a lifetime increase risk of melanoma by 50 percent."

A May 2010 study published in the journal of the American Association for Cancer Research found that participants who used tanning beds had a 74 percent greater risk of developing melanoma than those who never tanned indoors. Melanoma is the second most-common form of cancer in women age 20 to 29; according to the study, the risk for developing skin cancer was higher in people who started tanning when they were kids.

In spite of the fact that the link between tanning and skin cancer is well understood, many people-especially young women and teenage girls-remain convinced that the key to a healthy look is an all-over bronze sheen. And they're willing to ignore the risk of skin cancer in order to get it.

"Teen girls are frequent visitors" to tanning salons, said Sophie Balk of the Children's Hospital at Montefiore in New York, told Med Page Today. "And the use increases the older a teen is. So a 17-year-old is much more likely than a 14-year-old to go to a tanning salon."

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