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Munson seeks law regulating tanning bed use by children

February 20, 2004|by LAURA ERNDE

laurae@herald-mail.com

ANNAPOLIS - Sen. Donald F. Munson wants to regulate tanning beds in Maryland, making them off limits to anyone under 18 without a doctor's permission.

Munson, R-Washington, said he wants to protect young people from damaging their skin without knowing the risks.

"I've been reading a lot of literature regarding the effects of UV radiation over the last six to eight months. I do believe there's a case to be made between UV rays and cancer," he told members of the Senate Education Health and Environment Committee.

Tanning bed operators are fighting the proposal, saying the risks have been blown out of proportion and such regulations would hurt their businesses.

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Ruth Smith, owner of What a Tan in Hagerstown, testified against the bill.

Most tanning operations, including hers, already require teenagers to get permission from a parent or guardian before going under the light, she said.

Tanning operators are careful to teach their customers about how to tan without burning, which is most harmful, she said. Tanning beds prevent sunburn by allowing people to build up "base tan."

The state should not be allowed to tell parents that their children cannot get a suntan, she said.

"Will the next step be suntan police at the beaches?" said Jim Wint, who owns Electric Beach Tanning in Odenton, Md.

Tanning beds are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, which requires warning labels, industry representatives said.

In addition to tanning industry representatives, the Department of Labor Licensing and Regulation opposes the bill because there's no money in the state budget to regulate the industry.

Marcia E. Swain, a Hagerstown health educator, asked committee members to approve the bill to protect the health of young people, whom she said face greater risk from sun exposure.

Three members of her family, all Washington County farmers, have died from skin cancer in the last 10 years, she said.

UVA rays are suspected to have links to malignant melanoma and immune system damage, according to the Federal Trade Commission's Web site.

Under Munson's proposal, violators of the law would face a fine of up to $100 for the first violation, $250 for the second violation and $500 for the third violation.

The committee will review the bill and decide whether it moves forward this legislative session, which ends April 12.

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