Tanning beds off-limits to minors in Delaware as of 2015

Date Published: 
August 15, 2014

Teenagers looking for a UV-based golden glow will have to go to the beach starting in 2015, when Delaware’s newest tanning law begins. Beginning at the new year, no one younger than 18 can use UV tanning devices at tanning facilities.

Introduced by Catherine Cloutier (R-5th) of Wilmington, Senate Bill 94 also mandates warning signs and statements be posted in tanning facilities.

“Exposure to UV, either naturally from the sun or from artificial sources such as sunlamps, is a known risk factor for skin cancer,” the World Health Organization notes on its website. “A study conducted in Norway and Sweden showed a significant increase in the risk of malignant melanoma among women who had regularly used sunbeds.”

“The research is astounding. The World Health Organization has deemed tanning beds in the same classification [of being] as carcinogenic to human as asbestos and smoking,” said Cindy Canevari, Delaware state lead ambassador for the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network.

Skin cancer, cataracts, a weakened immune system and premature skin aging can result from UV radiation, according to WHO.

“Melanoma is now the second most common cancer for ages 15 to 29, and most common for ages 25 to 29” Canevari said. “Melanoma is cumulative, so if you start out using a tanning bed [in your teens], you’re not seeing cancer until your late 20s.”

She said she knows a woman in her 30s who tanned since the age of 15 and was just recently diagnosed with skin cancer.

“We didn’t know this back then. This is all new science. Her mother took her to a tanning bed,” Canevari said. “She testified up in Dover, and I think she was very instrumental to putting a face to this.”

Currently, adolescents younger than 14 cannot use tanning salons, unless it’s deemed medically necessary, and teens between 14 and 18 must have their parents or guardians sign a consent slip allowing them to use tanning beds.

Under that 2009 law, parental consent had to be renewed annually, and the forms included information on the health risks associated with indoor tanning. The Delaware Department of Health & Social Services was responsible for enforcement.

But Brittney Mitchell will now have to start ID’ing her young customers at Sunkissed Tanning in Fenwick Island.

“Of course it’s going to affect business — especially during prom season,” said Mitchell. “I have a lot of under-age girls. I have a lot of girls who came since age 15 who are now 17.”

She estimated seeing 30 minors who return throughout the year, but at least 100 local high-schoolers during prom season.

Mitchell argues that tanning beds offer “control.” People can get a variety of tanning sessions, from a low-level 20 minutes to a high-level 7 minutes.

“It’s pretty upsetting, considering we’re a beach resort and people come to tan on the beach and they can’t even use a tanning machine,” Mitchell said of the controlled environment of the salon.

“Obviously, we live in Delaware — most kids, most teens, are gonna be outside. They’re gonna spend 10, 12 hours outside. I’m sure they’re gonna be laying out a lot more, especially during prom season.

Mitchell said entire families preparing for vacations often seek several treatments to build a base tan so they don’t burn in the tropics.

“Twenty minutes in a bed — it’s pretty much like laying out for four, five hours,” Mitchell said. “I do offer a UV-less tan, but it’s not as popular … or powerful as the beds.”

Now she can only offer young customers instant tanner, instant bronzer or UV-less tans.

“That’s what I’m gonna push for, now that this law went into effect.”

A 10 percent federal tanning tax has also squeezed the tanning industry for several years, Mitchell noted.

“That’s another reason there’s not that many salons in the area,” Mitchell said.

But Canevari said the efforts are paying off in lives saved.

“I think we’re gonna save a lot of lives. If it saves one person from this, it’s worth it,” Canevari said. “When you weigh a life, I just think it’s very important. And if we can protect our teens, that’s very important. Cancer is a very deadly disease.”

UV treatments used medically for skin conditions were not addressed under the new law.

“I’m really proud that we got this bill passed. I just think it’s gonna save so many lives. There’s gonna be a whole generation of teens that won’t know what a tanning bed is,” Canevari said. “To me, that’s really groundbreaking.”

The bill’s passage was nearly unanimous, with state Sens. Gerald Hocker Sr., Colin Bonini and F. Gary Simpson absent for the vote and state Rep. Michael Ramone and state Sen. Bruce Ennis abstaining.

Gov. Jack Markell signed the bill into law July 28. It will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2015.