PHOENIX - As a mother of five, Rep. Peggy Judd said she understands why that bronze glow offered by tanning beds is so appealing to teens heading to proms or dance recitals.
But she also looks with worry at studies suggesting that exposure to intense ultraviolet rays can lead to melanoma and other skin cancers.
"I think the less sun we put on kids, the better," she said. "They're already in the sun all day, and adding indoor tanning to that is causing cancer."
Judd, a Republican from Willcox, has introduced a bill that would ban establishments from allowing those under 18 into tanning beds.
Arizona law currently requires minors to get written parental consent before using tanning beds, but Judd said risks aren't necessarily clear to children and parents.
"UV rays have been proven to cause cancer," she said. "So what's the push to get kids in the tanning bed?"
Judd's bill, HB 2596, was assigned to the House Judiciary Committee but has yet to be scheduled for a hearing.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer have declared that ultraviolet radiation from tanning beds is a cause of cancer.
Of the 28 million people who use tanning beds in the United States each year, 8 percent are teenagers, according to the American Academy of Dermatology.
Dr. Bill Halmi, vice president of the Arizona Dermatology Association, said his organization supports Judd's bill because of the risks tanning beds pose for young people.
"If you start indoor tanning before 30, it increases your risk of melanoma by 75 percent," Halmi said. "If you start before the age of 20, it's an even greater risk."
There are 152 professional indoor tanning businesses employing more than 900 people in Arizona, according to the Washington, D.C.-based Indoor Tanning Association. John Overstreet, the group's executive director, said barring minors from tanning beds would be a financial blow.
"You can't peel off a portion of a business's customers and not have it hurt the business," he said.
Randy Eddlemon, co-owner of Tan United, a Phoenix salon, said that parents should have the right to decide whether their children use tanning beds. He said the service has been unfairly demonized.
"You're going to get more deadly chemicals from eating a cheeseburger, from wherever it may be from, than you're going to get in a tanning bed," Eddlemon said. "The rays that are coming out of our beds are the same as the rays coming from the sun. There's no difference."
Judd said a tan just isn't worth the long-term risk for children.
"I think prohibiting tanning for them is one less thing for them to worry about," she said.
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