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Underage tanning could mean misdemeanor, $1,000 fine

Underage tanning could mean misdemeanor, $1,000 fine

Dustin Hurst
February 16, 2012
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February 16, 2012

A University of Washington medical student is working with the top Democrat in the House to attempt to ban underage tanning in the Gem State.

Former Idaho resident Blake Samspon, in his fourth year in the medical school at the University of Washington in Seattle, told members of the House Health and Welfare Committee Thursday that the state must act to protect youth who don’t have a clear enough “grasp of their own mortality” to stay out of tanning beds.

Sampson’s bill, sponsored by House Minority Leader John Rusche, D-Lewiston, would ban tanning by youth under the age of 18. Anyone violating the law would be fined $500 for the first violation and charged with a misdemeanor and fined a $1,000 for a second violation.

The legislation exempts youth who have a medical need for tanning services. It’s likely the bill would apply to tanning beds in businesses, but also in homes as well. There is no distinction in the legislation made to differentiate between commercial and private tanning beds.

There is also no waiver that would allow parents to grant permission for teens to tan in the beds.

Sampson told lawmakers that the link between tanning and skin cancer is obvious and the state has a duty to keep youth from hurting themselves. He said 36 states already have restrictions on youth tanning, including California, which has completely banned the practice.

Dermatologist Dr. Lindsay Sewell, called into the committee meeting from his Idaho Falls office to support the measure. “This isn’t an attack on anyone,” Sewell said. “This is the truth. This is an attack on cancer.”

Sewell said he treats many families who had no knowledge of how harmful tanning beds can be.

Erik Makrush, a lobbyist with the Idaho Freedom Foundation, said the legislation would represent a huge overreach by the state. “This decision should rest with the family,” Makrush said. “This is an infringement upon a family’s right to make these kinds of choices.”

If the tanning ban passes, Makrush says lawmakers might take a somewhat larger step to combat cancer. “Maybe next you could, perhaps, ban the sun,” Makrush said. “This becomes a nanny state type of activity.”

The committee will vote on the measure Monday. The vote could have been taken Thursday, but the committee’s agenda wasn’t properly posted online prior to the meeting, so legislators held off so they would not violate the state’s open meeting laws.

Note: The Idaho Freedom Foundation publishes IdahoReporter.com.

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