Tanning Time a Test for Teenagers

According to skincancer.org, people who first use a tanning bed before the age 35 increase their risk of getting melanoma by 75 percent. Photo by Matthew Nash.

Seventeen year olds in New York State may no longer be allowed to use tanning beds at salons if Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee gets her way. 

The bill Jaffee introduced on April 12 proposes that, 17 year olds, who are currently allowed to use tanning beds with written parental consent, be barred from using ultraviolet (UV) tanning bed services regardless of any form of parental consent. 

The bill cites a high risk of contracting skin cancer as the justification for disallowing salons to provide UV tanning bed services to anyone under 18. According to the bill, the World Health Organization (WHO) categorizes indoor tanning devices as the highest risk for contracting skin cancer. It also states that teens are at a higher risk of cancer due to misleading claims by the tanning industry and that requiring parental permission has not lowered the use of indoor tanning services among 17 year olds. The bill would follow up on a state law passed in 2012 preventing 16 year olds from using these services. 

One exception listed in the bill is the usage of UV radiation devices by physicians. Patients of all ages would still be allowed to receive treatment from a phototherapy device, which utilizes light to treat various physical and mental illnesses, as prescribed by licensed physicians.

According to guidelines released in 2003, WHO lists some of the dangers of being exposed to UV rays as skin cancers, such as melanoma, which is more likely to spread and grow than other forms of cancer, skin aging and eye damage. In regards to tanning beds, the document claims that “some machines have the capacity to emit levels of UV radiation up to five times stronger than the midday Australian summer sun.”

Sunny Tanning INC owner Mary Luciardiello spoke against the bill, believing that there’s not much of a difference between 17 and 18 year olds, making the cut off age arbitrary. 

“If a person’s 17, they’re allowed to be out on the road and do all these other things,” she said.

She also said that the bill will not stop 17 year olds from going to salons to get tans, stating that it will just prompt them to come in with fake IDs, and that a minor had come in just weeks earlier with an older sibling’s ID before being turned away. 

If passed, the bill will likely not affect Luciardiello’s business significantly given that a majority of customers are college students ages 18 or older. However she said that she does receive around four 17 year olds daily, half of which use the UV tanning beds. The highest traffic of 17 year olds comes right around the time of prom at the high school, she said.  

Customers 18 and older are directly given hazard forms that list the dangers of tanning, while parents receive the form when accompanying their 17 year old. Both parties are required to read the form in its entirety before using tanning services.