LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Nebraska lawmakers heard passionate public testimony Friday about a measure that would ban minors from using tanning beds, amid concerns that such devices can cause skin cancer.
The Legislature's Health and Human Services Committee hearing at the Capitol drew a long list of speakers. Several skin cancer survivors, dermatologists and physicians spoke in favor of the bill, while representatives of the tanning bed industry opposed it.
Sen. Jeremy Nordquist of Omaha introduced the measure, which would ban minors under the age of 18 from using tanning beds. Nebraska currently doesn't have any age restrictions on indoor tanning, but many salons require parental consent for 14 to 16-year-olds.
Barton Bonn, the owner of Ashley Lynn's tanning salon, said if passed, the bill would be among the most restrictive in the United States. Nebraska would become the third state to ban minors from using tanning beds, joining Vermont and California.
Bonn said the legislation is too restrictive, and he asked lawmakers to listen to people in the tanning bed industry as they craft legislation.
"I would hate to see our industry cut off," he said.
State Sen. Mike Gloor of Grand Island said if Bonn wants to be included in drafting a measure, he needs to speak up. He said Bonn has been involved with legislation before and should have known age regulations might be coming his way.
"I think you have a responsibility — rather than complaining to the committee that you were caught off guard — to take initiative," Gloor said.
Lincoln tanning salon owner Monica Parris said minors shouldn't be banned from tanning, but she thinks there should be more regulations on how long minors are allowed to tan. She also said parents should be allowed to put limits on the length and frequency of tanning by children.
Doctors and dermatologists provided the committee with several studies linking indoor tanning to skin cancer. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says those under 35 who tan have a 75 percent higher risk of melanoma, a deadly skin cancer.
Creighton nursing professor Joan Lappe does research on vitamin D and said the potential risks of tanning far outweighs the benefits of receiving vitamin D from ultraviolet rays. She said Nebraskans are better off eating foods rich in vitamin D or taking supplements.
Omaha dermatologist Tricia Hultgren said teens are sucked into tanning by deceptive sexual advertising and celebrities. She said indoor tanning facilities do not tell customers about the risks of tanning.
"We cannot count on parents to make informed decision when the information they are given, in many instances, is not true," she said.
Kasey Shriver, 21, said she was to tanning when she was 14. She was diagnosed with melanoma when she was 17. She testified in favor of the ban, saying teens don't understand the risks and care more about beauty and fitting in.
"I would like to say I live life with no regrets, but using that tanning bed for the first time when I was 14 will forever be my biggest regret," she said.