As many as a third of college-age people who use indoor tanning beds or booths show signs of being addicted to the behavior, according to a study reported Tuesday in the Los Angeles Times. These people know that ultraviolet light is harmful, increasing the risk of skin cancer. Yet they continue to tan excessively -- some as much as 100 times a year. Researchers say that excessive exposure to UV light may activate parts of the brain involved in substance abuse.
The cancer risk and overuse of tanning salons has not escaped the attention of lawmakers. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 32 states regulate indoor tanning salons, such as by banning tanning among people younger than 14 or requiring parental permission for people younger than 18.
Those restrictions are likely to get tighter. Last month, an advisory panel to the Food and Drug Administration recommended rules requiring teenagers to have parental permission to visit a salon and making health warnings on tanning beds and booths more noticeable.
More than 20 states have introduced legislation this year. Florida, for example, has proposed prohibiting tanning for people younger than 16 and requiring parental consent for people younger than 18, with the parent specifying exactly how many tanning sessions would be permitted in a given year. Hawaii's proposed legislation would ban tanning to people younger than 18 and require proof-of-age identification for everyone else.
The Indoor Tanning Assn. said in a recent statement that U.S. tanning industry practices are already sufficiently protective of consumer health and safety and any decisions on government restrictions should be based "on sound science and fact."
-- Shari Roan
Photo credit: Seth Wenig / Associated Press