Texas lawmaker pushes to ban teenage tanning

By: Morgan Downing Email
By: Morgan Downing Email

SHERMAN, TX -- As the number of young people with skin cancer grows, one Texas lawmaker and an area doctor, say keeping teens out of tanning beds could save lives.

An area dermatologist says the statistics when it comes to young people developing skin cancer, are shocking. That's why she supports Representative John Zerwass' bill to make it illegal for those under 18 to use tanning beds. But a local tanning salon owner says the bill would just burn her business, and wouldn't stop kids from tanning.

Plenty of people head to a tanning salon to get that summer glow, but tanning is especially popular with teenagers.

"Oh yeah, everyone tanned. I tanned in high school. I'm guilty of it too. As soon as I turned 16 I was tanning," Sarah Pearson said.

"Probably half our business is teenagers," Tana Pirtle said.

Local tanning salon owner, Tana Pirtle, could lose that business if one Texas lawmaker has his way. House Bill 598 would ban anyone under 18 from tanning salons because of the health risks, like Melanoma.

"It's a very serious cancer and the only way to prevent it is to start early," Dr. Zeikus said.

Dermatologist, Dr. Priya Zeikus, says over the last decade, doctors have seen Melanoma increase by 50 percent in young women alone.

"We know that any person who has any exposure to tanning beds before their age of 35, their risk of developing Melanoma is increased by 85 percent," Dr. Zeikus said.

But Pirtle says if this bill becomes law, kids will just tan outside, which could be worse because there's no limit to the amount of time they can spend in the sun. She says salons provide safer places to tan because in Texas, salon owners must follow the 24 hour rule -- meaning no one can tan more than once a day.

"We control their tanning. We keep them from burning. We keep them from doing anything bad to their skin. Where if they're on their own outside doing it, they're gonna burn and you don't want that," Pirtle said.

Sarah Pearson says she's aware of the risks, and wished she would have waited till she was older.

"I totally agree, I think 18 and above would be much more age appropriate for tanning," Sarah Pearson

In 2010, Texas added a 10 percent sales tax to deter indoor tanning, but Pirtle says her business remained steady.

If the bill passes out of committee, t will next go to the full house. We'll keep you updated on the progress.

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