Baltimore County Council to consider tanning bills

Measures would require signs, parental permission for those under 18

February 15, 2010|By By Mary Gail Hare | The Baltimore Sun

Still trying to stop teens from tanning, Baltimore County Councilman Vincent J. Gardina has drafted two more bills to ensure that patrons, particularly parents, are aware of the dangers of ultraviolet rays.

Gardina's bills, which the council will consider Tuesday, would require the owners of tanning businesses to demand written parental permission for those under age 18 and to post signs warning of the health risks of using tanning equipment. The consent form, which a parent or guardian would have to sign in the presence of the business owner, would include a notice detailing the cancer-causing effects of ultraviolet light.

Violators would face a fine of up to $100 per day.

"I want to make the dangers very clear, just like the caution on a pack of cigarettes," said Gardina, whose earlier attempt at keeping teens from tanning was rejected by the council. "I want a sign at the front door that notifies everybody the rays from a tanning bed are five times more intense than [those of] the sun. My intent is to prevent melanoma."

The American Cancer Society has linked melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer, to exposure to ultraviolet rays.

Several tanning business owners said they have posted signs on equipment and that they continually tell customers how to avoid sunburn and eye damage.

Harold Rubin, who owns four tanning salons in the county, said he has no problem with the parental consent form, which the state already requires but is unevenly enforced. Rubin took issue with a sign.

"You might as well say you are here to put us out of business," Rubin said. "You are misjudging the industry. The sign is unnecessary, redundant and creates a false impression that we are doing something wrong."

The sign and the permission forms are not about "anything criminal," said Council Chairman John A. Olszewski. "But we want parents to be aware of the consequences of tanning."

The Howard County Board of Health passed a regulation last year requiring that teens obtain a doctor's prescription before using tanning facilities, and the Anne Arundel County Council is considering limiting commercial tanning to adults.

Industry representatives defended tanning at last week's council work session. Lobbyist Bruce Bereano said Gardina is trying to enact medical conclusions "that indict my clients."

"There is tremendous medical debate on this issue and a lot of good uses for tanning," he said.

But Roberta Herbst, project manager for the Maryland Skin Cancer Prevention Program, disputed such contentions.

"There is no such thing as a safe tan," she said. "UV affects skin at the cellular level, and mutations can occur. Melanoma has increased 50 percent in women in the last 25 years."

The Baltimore County Health Department supports the legislation and would enforce it, said Dr. Linda Grossman, director for clinical services.

"Risks for skin cancer are two times higher for those who use tanning facilities," she said. "The younger you are, the bigger the risk factor."

Gardina's earlier bill, which failed by a 5-2 vote, would have prevented any minor from using tanning machines, with the exception of those who had a physician's prescription. Several council members said they could not approve a measure that they felt usurped parental rights. Gardina said he expects to be more successful with the new proposals.

"This is not a complete prohibition, and it allows parents to make the decision," he said. "The signs would just help keep everyone aware of the repercussions."

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