A House panel approved Wednesday a bill proponents believe will protect Idaho youth from the dangers of tanning, despite criticism the measure represents government overreach into family affairs.
The bill, backed by Reps. John Vander Woude of Nampa and Fred Wood of Burley, would ban tanning for all youth under 14, and require parental consent for teens between 14 and 18.
Proponents argued the protection of children rests at the bill’s heart.
Dr. Steven Mings, a certified dermatologist, said the bill protects children from tanning, which more than 100 studies have shown increases cancer risk, particularly in youth.
The measure would add tanning to existing restrictions on piercing, branding and tattoos. Tanning beds, Mings said, are just as dangerous as those.
“I don't take this task lightly,” he said. “I'm a champion of individual rights, but as a dermatologist, I feel the risk necessitates this provision.”
Because youth are less capable of making rational decisions based on risks, Mings insisted government regulation is necessary.
Idaho is one of only nine states that doesn’t have any tanning regulations.
Not all agreed with the doctor. Wayne Hoffman, president of the Idaho Freedom Foundation, argued the bill would be government overreach.
Hoffman warned if lawmakers decide to protect children from danger in one location, then they must also protect children from danger everywhere. The think tank president also suggested the bill would set a dangerous precedent for government regulation of potentially unsafe activities.
Hoffman also said families, not government officials, have the ultimate duty to protect and educate kids.
“The bill substitutes your judgement for the judgement of parents,” Hoffman told legislators.
House Minority Leader John Rusche, D-Lewiston, rejected that argument.
Rushe asked Hoffman if the government ought to also remove regulations on youth smoking and alcohol consumption.
Hoffman quickly dismissed the question, asking the Democrat if youth drinking laws actually stop underage alcohol consumption.
Joel Robinson, a former legislative candidate from Boise, echoed Hoffman’s sentiment on the measure. “New York doesn't regulate tanning, but they tried to regulate sodas,” Robinson noted, wondering if Idaho would take up that initiative, too.
The American Cancer Society’s Stacy Satterlee told lawmakers her group gives tacit approval to the compromise bill, but wanted a full ban on tanning for those under 18 years of age.
Rusche, a doctor, supported the bill, but suggested it could have been more stringent.
Vander Woude said the bill, which he described as a compromise proposal, is progress.
“This is a step forward to educate the public on the dangers of tanning booths,” the Nampa Republican said.
The measure now heads to the House floor.
Note: The Idaho Freedom Foundation publishes IdahoReporter.com.
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