Fine Print: Tan Ban for Under-17s Advances

Andrew Kitchenman | February 21, 2013 | Health Care
A bill intended to keep young teens from turning themselves to toast is on the governor's desk

What it is: A bill that would raise the age for teenagers to use tanning booths from 14 to 17. The bill (A-2142) was passed by the Senate 31-2 on February 7 and by the Assembly 57-12 on February 14.

At issue: Dermatologists say tanning beds are harmful and pushed for the bill as a way to reduce teens’ risk of developing skin cancer. They hope to avoid having high-schoolers seek tans during prom season.

Medical research: Dermatologists point out that there is proven 75 percent increased risk of melanomas for young people using indoor tanning. They argue that a scientific consensus has been reached on the danger to teens.

And more medical research: Tanning-salon owners point to other studies finding cancer risk is increased by sunburns, not from routine tanning.

Background: State lawmakers made a push last spring to raise the age for teenagers to use tanning booths from 14 to 18. The debate over the bill peaked after excessively bronzed Nutley mother Patricia Krentcil was accused of bringing her young daughter to a tanning salon, which she vehemently denied.

Old enough to tan: The measure passed by a large margin in the Assembly, but faded in the Senate amid a strong legislative push by tanning businesses. Members of both houses sat down and worked out a compromise, lowering the age limit to 17, the same age that New York settled on last year.

Dermatologists signed on to the compromise and hope the Legislature will revisit raising the age to 18 in the future.

The counterargument: Tanning-salon advocates said consumers deserve the right to weigh the pros and cons of tanning. American Suntanning Association officials support so-called responsible regulations, including parental consent, warning that teenagers will be driven to irresponsible use of privately owned tanning beds.

Christie’s position: With most Republicans in the Senate and half in the Assembly in favor of the bill, Christie may reject the tanning industry’s call for a veto. He has until the end of March to make up his mind.