Missouri legislators are working to pass House Bill 1475, which requires parental consent for anyone younger than 17 to use a tanning bed.
The Missouri House of Representatives previously proposed two separate bills, one requiring parental consent and the other prohibiting the use of tanning devices for anyone younger than 15.
Rep. Jay Barnes, R-District 114, attempted to amend House Bill 1475 by combining the parental consent rule with his own bill’s proposal to outlaw indoor tanning for people younger than 15. The House Rules Committee later removed the age restriction amendment from the bill.
The current bill, sponsored by Rep. Gary Cross, R-District 48, has a proposed effective date of August 28 this year.
“People have a misperception of the safety of tanning salons,” co-sponsor Rep. Margo McNeil, D-District 78, said. “My daughter used to go to tanning salons in high school for prom, and it never crossed my mind that it could be of harm to her.”
In the past, representatives have attempted to create laws that regulate minors’ indoor tanning practices, but they received stiff opposition from the tanning industry.
“There is opposition because tanning is a big business in Missouri,” McNeil said. “We don’t want to over-regulate business.”
Dr. Wayne Cooper proposed a similar bill three years ago, McNeil said. The bill imposed stricter regulations than the current one, though, and was never passed into Missouri law.
“I’m hoping the parental notification is enough,” McNeil said.
McNeil said she was concerned that the legislation may not provide coherent rules pertaining to the content of the required parental consent form. If the form consists of three or four pages of technical jargon, no one will read it, thus removing the purpose of the parental consent form.
Though many salons in the tanning industry claim they already provide a parental consent form for minors, there is no legislation that details what information must be included.
McNeil hopes the forms will list the potential risks and dangers of indoor tanning in an attempt to educate the parents, she said.
As of Thursday, the executive session of the Rules Committee passed the amendments to the bill, and it now awaits the approval of the Senate.
Another co-sponsor of the bill, Rep. Wanda Brown, R-District 116, is hopeful the Senate will approve it.
“I can’t speak for the Senate,” Brown said. “It might save lives if it goes through.”
The bill not only protects minors, but the tanning salons as well, Brown said. In the event that someone is diagnosed with skin cancer after using a tanning bed, the person will not be able to sue the salon because of the liability form he or she signed prior to using the salon’s devices.
Freshman Paige Block is not as supportive of the bill as its sponsors. Though she does not use tanning beds herself, Block thinks there should not be legislation regarding the choices other people make.
“I don’t like that there would be that much control over what people are doing,” she said. “It’s their bodies, they should be able to do what they want. It’s not like a substance they’re taking.”
Block said her reasoning for not using indoor tanning services, in addition to cost, is her awareness of the harms associated with it.
Missouri is following a long line of states in the U.S. that have already passed legislation similar to this bill. Many states have even banned tanning for all minors.