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Small business owner burned over GOP's anti-tanning bill

Small business owner burned over GOP's anti-tanning bill

Dustin Hurst
February 23, 2015
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February 23, 2015

A small indoor business in north Idaho is firing back at Idaho lawmakers just days after they introduced a bill to ban tanning for youth under the age of 14.

Joni Clevenger, owner of Caribbean Tan in Coeur d'Alene, told IdahoReporter.com Saturday she’s disappointed her Legislature would launch an attack on her small business, which she says already screens youth.

“Tanning is healthy,” Clevenger said. “Far healthier than many things I can think of that teenagers love to do.”

Last week, Republican Reps. John Vander Woude, Nampa, and Fred Wood, Burley, introduced the bill, which requires parental consent for indoor tanning by teens between 14 and 18 years old. The bill would outlaw all tanning for minors under 14, regardless of parental consent.

The measure would inflict stiff penalties on providers who breach the government regulations, including a misdemeanor charge and up to $500 fine for a first offense. The state could fine violators up to $1,000 for a second offense if it comes within a year of the first violation.

Clevenger opposes the bill and said she’ll fight to keep it from hitting Gov. Butch Otter’s desk.

“To legislate this would indicate irresponsible business ownership and if that's the case, we've got bigger problems than a teenager increasing his or her her vitamin D, serotonin levels, clearing up acne, psoriasis, eczema and arthritis and creating a better, healthier immune system,” she wrote in an email.

This is hardly the first time Idaho lawmakers have addressed the issues. Lawmakers in the Capitol have killed two prior iterations of the measure, including one that would have banned all indoor tanning for minors unless youth had a doctor’s note.

Advocates for the bill say a skin cancer crisis prompts the action and that the state must regulate tanning beds  to beat back exploding skin cancer cases.

The American Academy of Dermatology opposes letting minors use tanning beds in any cases and recommends all tanning facilities disclose potential health risks to all customers.

Clevenger rejected the notion that her customers aren’t educated enough to know the risks of tanning, including the younger patrons, who often frequent her business with parents.

“Mostly, parents come in with their teen,” she said. “To legislate this would be indicative of bad parenting.”

The business owner traded emails over the weekend with another proponent of anti-tanning restrictions, Democrat John Rusche of Lewiston.

Rusche, a retired medical doctor, scolded Clevenger for her stance. “As an adult, one of your jobs should be to protect kids,” Rusche said.

But Clevenger asserts she already takes steps to screen youth. She emailed IdahoReporter.com a picture of what she said is a consent form for all youth, which requires a signature from a parent before service.(See that form here.)

The business owner said lawmakers need to mind their own business and find other ways to help young Idahoans.

“Why is this all they can do for kids?” she asked. “Why are we, the tanning community, being charged with child endangerment?”

Listen to to the bill's first hearing:

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