Teen tanning-bed restrictions pass Miss. Senate

Published 11:05 pm Wednesday, March 11, 2009

If you’re too young to vote, you soon might be too young to use a tanning bed in Mississippi without a note from mom or dad.

A bill that passed the state Senate on Tuesday would require anyone 17 or younger to get written permission from a parent or guardian before using an indoor tanning facility.

It also would require a parent or guardian to remain at the gym, salon or other facility when someone 13 or younger uses a tanning bed.

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Rep. Mary Ann Stevens, D-West, sponsored the bill and said it’s getting support from pediatricians and oncologists because of their concerns about young people getting sunburns that could develop into skin cancer.

“A lot of these teenagers, especially people who get in beauty pageants, just get so tan in the tanning beds, not realizing the damage it could do later,” Stevens said.

Under the Senate’s version of the bill, parental permission would be valid for a year. The original version of the bill, which passed the House last month, said permission only would be valid for 90 days. In both versions, the adults could revoke their permission.

The two chambers must agree on a timetable before the bill can go to Gov. Haley Barbour, who has not taken a position on the proposal.

Rep. Rita Martinson, R-Madison, frequently argues that government should play a minimal role in people’s private lives, but she supports a requirement for parents or guardians to give written permission for those younger than 18. She said some tanning salons already require parents or guardians to give written permission.

“It might seem frivolous to a lot of people, but I think it’s better to prevent this problem,” Martinson said.

The bill says tanning-bed operators would be required to keep two years’ worth of parental consent forms and records that show the frequency and duration of tanning sessions for anyone 17 or younger. Dermatologists or other licensed health care facilities that use ultraviolet lights would not fall under the regulations.

Avery Tucker, a 16-year-old junior at Madison Ridgeland Academy, knows exactly how long it takes for her skin to have a midsummer glow before the weather’s even warm enough for her to wear shorts or a swimsuit outside.

Twelve minutes a day, for a week, in a tanning bed.

“I sometimes go if I’m getting ready to go to the beach — so I won’t be pale,” Tucker said.

Despite her own reliance on indoor ultraviolet lights to get an out-of-season tan, she said she has no problem with the bill.

“That’s actually a good idea, because some people can overuse it,” said Tucker, who recently went to a tanning bed for several sessions before a cheerleading competition.

The bill is House Bill 214.