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Pennsylvania bans those under 17 from using UV light beds

| Sunday, July 13, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review
Warning signs hang inside of one of the tanning rooms at Bahama Breeze Tanning Salon in Squirrel Hill on Thursday, July 10, 2014.
Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review
A consent form at Bahama Breeze Tanning Salon in Squirrel Hill on Thursday, July 10, 2014.

People younger than 17 can no longer slide into a commercial tanning bed in Pennsylvania to get the bronze glow they crave.

A state law that took effect this month requires tanning facilities to turn away customers younger than 17 and obtain written parental consent from 17-year-olds.

The rule banning most minors from tanning equipment that emits ultraviolet light is part of a set of regulations under the Indoor Tanning Regulation Act. Any facility that charges a fee or membership for use of a tanning bed — including tanning salons, spas, gyms and apartment buildings — must follow rules intended to boost safety and keep users informed about the dangers of UV light.

“Actually, I like having the state guidelines; it makes it easier for us to enforce what we already do for safety; we want people to tan responsibly,” said Margarite Labanc, director of The Body Bar Experience, which has fitness, spa and tanning facilities in Cranberry and North Hills. “Before, anybody could do what they wanted to, and it made it more difficult for reputable salons.”

Pennsylvania joins about three dozen states that regulate the indoor tanning industry. Lawmakers pitched the regulations for about 15 years before House Bill 1259 by Rep. Frank Farry, R-Bucks County, cleared Gov. Tom Corbett's desk on May 6.

Even before the act, Bahama Breeze Tanning Salon in Squirrel Hill had customers of all ages sign a release and answer questions about their skin health, and required anyone younger than 17 to get parental consent, said Lisa Levine, the salon's co-owner. Her staff gets certified online to recognize skin types — a blue-eyed, freckle-faced redhead needs to be much more cautious than a brown-eyed customer with olive skin. She ensures that customers wear protective eyegear and uses a computer timer to operate the beds.

“We've done that since we opened because we knew that some states already mandated it,” Levine said. “And better safe than sorry, because a lot of young girls want to come in, and those are the ones associated with melanoma (skin cancer) problems when they get older.”

The Pennsylvania Medical Society, the state's biggest physician advocacy group, was one of the most vocal supporters of the act. The Indoor Tanning Association and other critics dismissed it as “nanny state” lawmaking.

Tanning facilities must register immediately with the state Department of Health. The facilities must maintain three years of records on everyone who uses tanning beds and be prepared for state inspections starting in May 2016.

“This is unknown territory for us — we're not entirely familiar with how many of these facilities exist,” health department spokeswoman Holli Senior said.

Registration fees start at $150 for the first two tanning beds, $300 for more and $20 per bed in excess of 10 beds.

“These things add up,” said Bob Kirchner, owner of Holiday Health & Racquet Club in Plum, which offers gym members use of a couple tanning beds. “We'll probably keep on using them, but it just make things tougher.”

Natasha Lindstrom is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-8514 or nlindstrom@tribweb.com.

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