Schenectady County

State lawmakers weighing ban on indoor tanning for minors

Fulfilling the “Jersey Shore” mantra of G.T.L. — gym, tanning, laundry — may soon be a lot harder fo

Fulfilling the “Jersey Shore” mantra of G.T.L. — gym, tanning, laundry — may soon be a lot harder for teenagers in New York as the state tries to become the first to ban indoor tanning for all minors.

The industry considers a bill before the Legislature to be another “nanny state” assault on their business and the proposal comes at the height of the indoor tanning season for teens: prom time.

The American Cancer Society has named the bill as one of its top priorities for the legislative session.

“It can be horrific,” said Harvey Weisenberg, a Long Island lifeguard for 50 of his 77 years and the Assembly sponsor of the bill. “This is a cancer-causing process. They do it for proms. They do it for special occasions. … There is lots of evidence.”

The Democrat need not look far for examples. His leg was treated for skin cancer two weeks ago, and he still works as a lifeguard.

“You see these young girls with scarred faces — young girls — what else do you need to know?” Weisenberg said.

Jackie Paquet of Ballston Spa doesn’t see the need for a ban. Now 19, she has used indoor tanning booths since she was 15 and now works at Total Tan in the Saratoga County town of Malta, where no more than 20 percent of customers are under 18. She thinks the cancer scare is overblown.

“It only happens if you really abuse it,” she said.

Ana Sutphen, 15, of Malta, was waiting for two of her friends who were tanning in the booths in the neat, airy and professional office space. She has tried indoor tanning once herself and is considering more visits. She doesn’t believe the cancer scares.

“I think that’s stupid,” she said of a potential ban.

The World Health Organization states that the $1 billion industry uses some machines that can provide five times the ultraviolet radiation of the midday sun, one of many assertions disputed by the industry.

More than two dozen states regulate indoor tanning of minors. New York is among at least a half-dozen that bars it for children under 14, and it currently requires parental permission for tanners 14 to 17 years old.

The American Cancer Society is pushing New York to become the first state to end tanning for all children in part because passage here could help get bills passed elsewhere around the country. About 20 states have bills that would ban tanning for those under 18. Some localities, including Howard County in Maryland and some in Canada already have bans for youths.

“Kids can get an abortion without parental permission, but you can’t get a tan,” said Dan Humiston, president of the national Indoor Tanning Association, which is fighting the measure. He owns 41 Tanning Bed stores from Buffalo to Utica.

Packages can run from about $40 a month for once a week tanning to “unlimited” tanning for about $80 a month.

“There is no scientific basis for those folks to want to ban teenagers,” said John Overstreet, spokesman for the Indoor Tanning Association. Pressed for evidence, he said studies can’t usually prove a negative — such as there is no threat.

“It certainly is a nanny state type of thing,” Overstreet said.

He said foundations supporting research, which he finds faulty and biased, are financially supported by sunscreen manufacturers.

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