During the 2012 legislative session, House Bill 486 was introduced, making the use of tanning beds by those under 16 a crime. The bill struggled through the House, even being pulled off the floor and back into committee for a second look. Eventually, the bill made it back to the House floor and passed, only to be killed in a Senate committee.
Proponents of the bill cited public safety for Idaho’s children, saying it was the state’s duty to help protect kids from things like melanoma. Opponents countered, saying that the decision for a minor to use a tanning bed should be made by parents of that child, not the government.
The issue produced fairly heated debate during the legislative session. In fact, minors tanning has popped into the news nationally with a recent story from New Jersey where a deeply tanned mother is charged with allowing her 6-year-old daughter to use a tanning booth. New Jersey requires parental consent for minors ages 14-17 to use a booth, but has no law on the books for those under age 14.
The Idaho Freedom Foundation was against the bill, citing, among other things, government overreach. It asked May 15 primary candidates if they would support a ban on the use of tanning beds for minors.
Eight candidates said they would support a ban on tanning beds for minors, 55 were opposed to it and 13 were not sure. Several candidates chose to leave the question blank.
Of the eight supporters for the ban, just a handful explained their position. The general consensus among supporters was that the government regulates tobacco, alcohol and other actions deemed harmful to minors, why shouldn’t tanning be among those as well?
Rep. Marv Hagedorn, R-Meridian, who is attempting to switch to the Senate running for a seat in District 14, said the state already has protections in place for minors with regard to alcohol, tobacco and driving, so if tanning needs to be addressed for minors, so be it. He qualified his remarks by saying he would have to see the required age, parents would be involved if a bill selects a specific “tanning consent” age, plus determine if there is indeed a problem.
“The state regulates cigarette smoking, drinking of alcohol and even driving privileges to minors, so the ‘protect minors regulation ship’ has sailed. If data exists that show minors smoking, drinking, overtanning or even driving at a young age, we must look at it and decide if minors are able to make proper decisions on that issue,” explains the Meridian lawmaker. “In order to support this, I would also require a parental permit process for those less than whatever age of ‘tanning consent’ might be.”
The 55 who were opposed to the legislation believe banning minors from tanning beds would have the government overstepping its authority, or duty. The theme was that parents are responsible for making the decision that they see fit, not the government, and “the more laws passed, the more freedoms are taken away,” as one candidate put it.
Lori Shewmaker, a Republican candidate for the House in District 21, summed up the general feeling of those opposed: “I believe this is the proper role of a PARENT, not the government. If you do not have control over your own body, or your children, how can you be free? I would support a voluntary effort on the part of tanning facilities to require parental permission to use tanning beds. I believe those that want this legislation should be lobbying the tanning industry, NOT the Legislature.”
While there were 13 candidates unsure about the issue, most said they felt it probably wasn’t the best role for the government to decide this issue, but, as one said, “I’m not sure where to draw the line on this.”
They also said more information would be needed before coming to a conclusion, but there is a risk factor in everything minors do, even sports.
Lary Larson, a Democrat running for a House seat in District 34, said he would like to see some information on the risks involved with tanning by a minor.
Said Larson: “I would want to see more information about the health risks of tanning beds. If the health risk is not significant, then I would say that letting minors use tanning beds is like letting them participate in high school athletics or drive motor vehicles. There is some risk of injury or death, but that risk is tolerable given the benefits of participating in those activities.”
Note: IdahoReporter.com is published by the Idaho Freedom Foundation.