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State Regulations Associated With Decreased Youth Access To Indoor Tanning Facilities

Armen Hareyan's picture

Teens and Indoor Tanning Facilities

In three states that have age regulations on indoor tanning access, 62 percent of surveyed facilities reported they would not allow a 12-year-old to tan, compared to 18 percent of facilities in a non-regulation state, according to a study in the August issue of the Archives of Dermatology, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

Use of ultraviolet (UV) tanning beds by U.S. adolescents is widespread, despite UV's classification as a carcinogen (cancer causing agent) and its association with numerous effects such as squamous and basal cell carcinoma and melanoma, background information in the article states. Changing the tanning behavior of minors is a goal for skin cancer prevention given that adolescence is a critical period during which UV radiation increases skin cancer risk. However, in 2003, only three states had set limits for indoor tanning customers: Texas at age 13 years, Illinois at age 14 years and Wisconsin at age 16 years. Most states do not set age limits on indoor tanning.

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Eric J. Hester, M.D., from the University of Colorado at Denver and Health Sciences Center, and colleagues conducted phone surveys to assess youth access to indoor tanning facilities. In October 2003, 400 tanning facilities in Colorado, Illinois, Texas and Wisconsin were asked whether potential patrons aged 12 and 15 years would be allowed to tan in their facilities, and if so, whether a guardian or adult accompaniment or consent was required. The tanning facility personnel were also asked whether any price discounts were available for younger customers.

The researchers found that 62 percent of facilities in states with age restrictions had operators report that they would not allow a 12-year-old potential customer to tan in their facility (Texas, 23 percent; Illinois, 74 percent; Wisconsin 89 percent) compared with 18 percent in Colorado. For a 15-year-old potential customer, rates of access to tanning without parental accompaniment (not complying to respective state statutes) were 83 percent in Texas, 20 percent in Illinois, and 17 percent in Wisconsin. Noncompliance for 15-year-olds was higher for tanning facilities offering youth discounts (60 percent vs. 46 percent). Overall, 15 percent of the tanning facilities reported that youth discounts were available-23 percent in Texas, 14 percent in Illinois, 11 percent in Wisconsin, and 11 percent in Colorado.

"Given the prevalence of indoor UV tanning, especially by adolescent girls, and the known risks of indoor tanning, public health efforts need to be directed at this underrecognized carcinogen exposure," the authors write. "Despite high noncompliance with youth access laws in Texas, higher compliance levels in states with long-standing youth access regulations (Illinois and Wisconsin) suggest the potential for successful tanning industry youth access regulation." - CHICAGO