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Committee votes to introduce teen tanning bill

A bill that would ban teens younger than 16 from using tanning beds is back in the Idaho Legislature, one year after similar legislation died in the Senate amid outcry of government intrusion from the tanning industry.

The House Health and Welfare committee on Feb. 18 introduced a measure intended to keep minors under 16 out of tanning booths and require in-person parental consent for 16 and 17-year-olds. Under the bill, violators would be charged with a misdemeanor and fined up to $100, while second offenders could be hit with a $300 fine.

Ken McClure, the lobbyist for the Idaho Medical Association, says tanning poses a serious health concern to young people and heightens risk for skin cancer. In his testimony, McClure said new studies show repeated use of tanning beds continue to show a strong correlation with melanoma.

“(We’ve) made a decision that (kids) should not be able to buy or use tobacco at all,” he said. “This is another thing we think as guardians of the public health that you should look at very seriously.”

This year’s version mirrors last year’s bill, which barred anyone under 15 from tanning and required parental consent for older teens.

That legislation also had support from medical professionals but was panned by tanning industry representatives who argued parents — not the government — should regulate their children’s behavior. The Senate pulled the plug on the bill after it was also criticized for requiring tanning salons to post signs warning about the dangers of their service.

This year’s bill eliminates that provision.

But Wayne Hoffman, executive director of the Idaho Freedom Foundation, said the 2013 bill still intrudes on parental rights. He said parents should be trusted to do what’s right for their kids, adding the government has no business getting involved in decisions better made at home.

“Once the government says kids under a certain age cannot use a tanning booth, the next step is the government says you can only be outside so long,” Hoffman said Monday. “Maybe the next thing is you have to have a license to spend more than three hours outdoors.”

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