Bill to ban tanning for minors passes Arizona House, now in Senate

PHOENIX – A bill to ban minors from using tanning beds, a move to reduce their risk of getting skin cancer, has passed the Arizona House and reached the Senate.

A parent signature has always been required for minors to use indoor tanning devices. But HB 2194 would not allow youths younger than 18 to use tanning beds regardless of a parent’s approval. Similar bills have been proposed in three previous legislative sessions but this year is the first time a bill has made it this far.

Shelby Voss, a melanoma cancer survivor who has been cancer free for five years, remembers the day she received her diagnosis.

“I got a call at 8 a.m. on June 12,” Voss said. It was her daughter’s third birthday.

“We actually see melanoma being the number one killer in individuals who are aged 28 to 39,” Dr. Aaron Mangold, a dermatologist, said. “It’s actually the number two killer in individuals who are 15 to 28.”

Voss said she started tanning around 14 or 15 years old. The Indiana native said she wanted to use a tanning bed before summer to get a base tan and look good for special events. Her mother gave her 30-day passes to the tanning salon and Voss used them often.

“People who tan share a lot of overlapping habits with individuals who are addicts to other things such as cigarettes or alcohol,” Mangold said. “Tanning beds are carcinogenic. They’re no different than cigarettes. They’re no different than plutonium.”

Voss had surgery right away to remove a mole but surgery didn’t ease her mind.

“I had the worst anxiety for three years,” Voss said.

She recovered with renewed awareness of the danger of tanning and a nine-inch scar on her back. A photographer, Voss wears pants and long sleeves when working in the sun. She slathers her two children with sunscreen.

“It’s always on my mind, there’s never a day that this melanoma isn’t on my mind,” Voss said.

Rep. Heather Carter, R-District 15, said she was surprised youths in her Cave Creek district think the bill is a good idea.

“I am overwhelmed by the support that I’ve received from students across my district interested in this bill,” Carter said.

Brian Hummmell of the American Cancer Society believes an indoor tanning ban for minors would save money and lives.

“The state of Arizona’s cancer registry did an estimate that approximately 150 lives would be saved and over $7 1/2 million in health-care expenses” could be cut,” Hummell said.

(Video by Lexi Hart / Cronkite News)