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Phila. Council to vote on bill governing teens' use of tanning salons

Councilman William Greenlee hopes not to get burnt Thursday when his indoor-tanning bill comes up for a vote.

Councilman William Greenlee hopes not to get burnt Thursday when his indoor-tanning bill comes up for a vote.

Citing what he called "a preponderance of evidence" that indoor tanning greatly raises one's risk of developing skin cancer, Greenlee has introduced a bill that would restrict minors from using indoor-tanning facilities in Philadelphia without parental permission.

The measure would also prohibit those younger than 14 from using commercial tanning beds and other ultraviolet-emitting equipment without a doctor's permission.

Salons would have to give every customer a written warning, listing potential health risks.

The bill, which Greenlee expects will pass, would apply to Philadelphia facilities with tanning equipment that emits UV radiation. Spray-on equipment and devices in homes would not be included.

As Council prepares to vote, a bill sponsored by State Rep. Frank A. Farry (R., Bucks) would go further, forbidding tanning statewide for those younger than 17.

About 13 percent of high school students reported using indoor-tanning equipment, according to a 2011 survey by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Among high school girls, 21 percent reported indoor tanning. Among 12th-grade girls, the number was 32 percent.

The long-term effects can be deadly. Those who use indoor-tanning equipment before age 35 have a 75 percent higher chance of developing melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer, the CDC says.

UV exposure is listed as a risk factor for melanoma. Other risk factors include fair skin, moles, freckles, and blistering sunburn during youth.

Despite the evidence linking UV radiation to melanoma, Pennsylvania remains the only state in the Northeast without a law regulating the tanning industry.

Farry wants to change that. In addition to banning those younger than 17 from indoor-tanning facilities, his bill would develop a state registry of tanning facilities, require them to post warnings, and institute a standard for tanning beds. The bill was voted out of committee unanimously, he said. The time frame for approval is uncertain.

Farry said he proposed legislation after noticing other states passing restrictive laws. "There's a reason you have to be 18 to buy cigarettes," said Farry, who compared the correlation between indoor tanning and skin cancer to the link between smoking and lung cancer.

New Jersey already has indoor-tanning legislation on the books. This year, Garden State legislators passed a law banning those younger than 17 from using commercial tanning beds. The legislation also stipulates that no one younger than 14 can use spray-on tanning equipment.

Greenlee believes his bill, which is milder than New Jersey's law, will not impose a great expense on city businesses.

He said there would be no direct cost to local salons aside from having to provide the written warnings.

Greenlee said he had not heard of any opposition to the bill, which is supported by Mayor Nutter and the city Health Department.

Greenlee has never met Dan Bouikidis, owner of megaSun Tanning, a chain with salons in Philadelphia and Ardmore,

"I'm against [the bill]," Bouikidis said. "You can't control what people do all the time."

He emphasized that the measure would not affect his business because all of his customers are 18 or older. But he believes it's unnecessary government intrusion.

In response, Greenlee said, "This is just giving people information, and in the case of minors, having parents involved. I don't think that's an oppressive government intrusion.

"There's so much evidence that it does damage that it would be hard for somebody to come in and say, 'I don't want to tell people that there's a problem,' " he said.