Bid to ban tanning-bed use by minors in Montgomery Co. gains traction

WASHINGTON — Spring break. Beach week. Prom. These three events can send teenagers — mainly young girls — racing to the local tanning salon.

But many dermatologists, and some local lawmakers, want to put a stop to that. Montgomery County Councilmember Tom Hucker suggested a bill to ban the use of tanning beds by minors. Minors can now use indoor tanning devices offered at salons if they have a parent’s permission.

“We don’t let minors smoke cigarettes with parental permission,” he says. “So for the same reason, we shouldn’t let minors use these tanning beds either.”

The Food and Drug Administration has called indoor tanning “a known contributor to skin cancer,” while the indoor tanning industry has questioned the certainty of the link.

At Tuesday’s hearing before the county council, doctors testified that they’ve seen a number of young clients, mostly women, who developed basal cell carcinomas after using indoor tanning devices, usually when using tanning beds as teens.

Dr. Larry Green, of Rockville, says that even with limited exposure, each use of a tanning bed boosts the possibility that a user will develop skin cancer in the future.

“I hear it time and time again: They just didn’t know — and their parents didn’t know — how dangerous these things can be later on in life.” he said.

Dr. Jill Allbritton, a dermatapathologist who examines biopsies of patients to determine whether they have skin cancer, echoes Dr. Green’s comments. She sees a number of young patients a with a history of indoor tanning who developed skin cancers.

“And then they really regret that tan because they may end up with a scar. And even worse, they may end up with a melanoma,” she said.

Aware that some businesses and users who question the alarms sounded by the CDC and the FDA about indoor tanning, Allbritton told the council members, “I’m the mother of four kids and I would not let them use indoor tanning devices.”

All nine Montgtomery County Councilmembers signaled their support of the bill after Tuesday’s hearing.

If adopted, the bill would make Montgomery County the second in the state to ban minors from using tanning beds at salons. Howard County has already adopted a similar measure.

Hucker says his bill would still allow minors to get spray tans at salons where they are offered.

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