State lawmakers are discussing banning indoor tanning for those younger than 18.
States with similar bans are California, Illinois, Nevada, Oregon, Texas and Vermont. The United Kingdom, Germany, Scotland, France, and several Australian states and Canadian provinces have also banned indoor tanning for minors.
Currently, Michigan teens under the age of 18 must have parental consent to use tanning facilities.
Williams, now 20, said she started tanning before going on family vacations so she wouldn’t get sunburned when they visited warmer climates. The Grand Haven woman has worked as a sales associate at Tahiti Tan in Grand Haven Township for three years, and tans two or three times a week.
“I like to have a nice natural glow,” Williams said.
Joe Levy, executive director of International Smart Tan Network, said he opposes a ban on tanning. A ban would turn people to using at-home tanning beds, which aren’t regulated like tanning salons, he said.
A blanket ban on minors tanning isn’t educational, according to Levy.
“We need to teach people how to be sun smart,” he said.
Levy said the point is to induce a tan, not a burn. He said tanning bed facilities deliver an intensity of light that is a fraction of the exposure people get from the sun at the beach.
In May, the U.S. Department of Food and Drug Administration started looking into reclassifying sunlamps in tanning beds. The change would also require labeling to include a recommendation designed to warn young users the consequences of using a tanning bed.
Levy said tanning salons assist clients with options that best suit them, using charts that ask about untanned skin color, eye color, natural hair color, freckles, how often they get sunburn and their darkest tanning potential. The forms also inform users about “sensible, moderate and responsible exposure to ultraviolet radiation," he said. It also warns about overexposure that can cause eye and skin injuries, and allergic reactions.
The form also states that repeated exposure may cause premature aging of the skin and skin cancer. It informs users not to tan if they have a sunburn.
Dr. Bruce Brod, chairman of the American Academy of Dermatology’s State Affairs Committee, said there aren’t health benefits to indoor tanning, and it “significantly increases” the risks of skin cancer, such as melanoma, because it damages DNA. The Pennsylvania-based dermatologist said the committee supports a ban on tanning for minors because it’s “what’s politically feasible.”
Brod equates an indoor tanning ban for minors to the age requirements for purchasing alcohol and cigarettes.
“It’s the sale of radiation to minors,” he said.
Dr. Tulika Singh, a primary care physician for the North Ottawa Community Health System, said tanning is harmful if done in excess.
Tanning stimulates vitamin D production, but Singh said it’s safer for someone to take oral supplements to raise their vitamin D level.
Singh said both indoor and outdoor tanning are harmful when the tanner is exposed to UVA and UVB rays, which can cause sunburn, premature skin aging, skin cancer and cataracts. She said the high concentrations of UVA and UVB from tanning beds can cause damage in less time.
“There is no such thing as a safe tan,” Singh added.
Singh recommends people use tanning beds no more than once a week, if at all. If you do, she recommends wearing sunscreen with SPF over 30 and lip balm with SPF over 30 to protect from skin burn.