For the second year in a row, Idaho lawmakers have pulled the plug on legislation designed to restrict teens from using tanning beds.
The House voted 25-43 March 18 to kill a renewed effort to restrict the use of indoor ultraviolet tanning devices for minors under age 16.
During floor debate Rep. John Rusche, D-Lewiston, said teens who tan regularly face heightened risks of cancer. He cited research showing children’s skin cells regenerate more quickly than adults’ and are more susceptible to developing melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer.
The bill also earned support from Republicans, who argued the restrictions on tanning are no different than teen limitations on driving, smoking and drinking.
Rep. Paul Romrell, R-St. Anthony, said tanning can become additive and consequently carries more risks to long-term health.
Legislators have “said (teens) couldn’t buy cigarettes, they can’t drink alcoholic beverages even with parental consent,” he said. “We’ve heard testimony that it’s addictive. Kids go (tanning) once or twice a week. Then they go again and again.”
Idaho’s latest effort to regulate tanning comes as similar bills are being debated in 25 other states that would tighten or create new restrictions on young people tanning, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. More than 30 states already have some regulations on indoor tanning for minors but — with the exception of California and Vermont — the rules stop short of an outright ban.
For the Idaho Legislature, the 2013 proposal is a modified version that was nixed in the Senate a year ago.
Last year’s version included fines up to $1,000 for offenders, but the measure debated this year reduced the monetary penalty to $100 for first offenses. It also included protections for tanning salon operators who are presented with fake IDs and would require parental consent for teens 16 and 17 years old.
Still, the changes weren’t sufficient to sway the majority of House Republicans.
Rep. John Vander Woude, R-Nampa, said the legislation unfairly targets small businesses and he argued that parents — not government — should have control over their children’s decisions.
He also expressed concern about the bill’s enforcement mechanism, questioning who would be responsible for collecting fines from teens or companies that violate the law.
“If a high school student comes to school with a tan, are they immediately sent to the principal’s office?” he said. “Who is going to turn them in?”
Rep. Fred Wood, a Republican physician from Burley who supported the measure, said the debate is simply a public health question.
“The science is very clear here, I don’t think there’s much dispute about that,” he said. “I don’t think this a question of what we’re doing to small business.”