SALEM -- A note from your doctor to tan? That's what a new bill proposes for teens who want to use the beds in tanning salons.
Under current law, anyone under the age of 18 in Oregon must have signed permission from a parent to use a tanning bed. But Oregon lawmakers are now considering a bill that would make it even tougher for youngsters to tan indoors.
House Bill 2896 would require people under 18 to get a doctor’s signed note of permission to use a tanning bed.
“The bill is designed to limit access to tanning beds which quite simply cause cancer,” said Brian Druker, M.D., director of the Knight Cancer Institute at OHSU. “We don’t allow anybody under 18 to buy cigarettes. Cigarettes and tanning have the same cancer-causing risks. We think they should have similar restrictions.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Oregon ranks fourth in the nation for its death rate from skin cancer. And the melanoma death rate for women in Oregon is the highest in the nation.
Studies have shown that indoor tanning increases a person's chance of getting skin cancer by 20 percent. And people who use the tanning beds before the age of 35 have a 75-percent higher risk of developing melanoma.
“I grew up in the Portland area and I started tanning when I was in high school, at about 16,” said skin cancer survivor Katie Wilkes.
The 26-year-old was diagnosed with melanoma three years ago. She believes her cancer was the result of years of tanning bed use in her teens.
“I wish someone had prevented me from doing that,” she admitted.
But not all think a law is necessary.
“Ultimately I think it should be the parents’ right to decide whether their child, a minor under the age of 18, should be able to tan or not,” said Ariel, a spokesperson for the tanning salon Tan Republic.
Oregon would not be the first state to pass such a law. Both California and Vermont have similar tanning bed bans.