By RACHEL LEVEN
ANNAPOLIS (March 23, 2010)—Terry Khoury and her husband recently bought their first tanning salon in Severna Park.
Even though Khoury said she was not a full-year tanner before owning the business, the married couple and their employees tan regularly at Bronze Bodies Tanning. Only Khoury's 15-year-old daughter doesn't tan. It makes her hair look lighter, she says.
But a bill presented to the House Economic Matters committee Tuesday would stop minors, like Khoury's daughter, from using tanning beds and lamps at salons and impose $250 to $1,000 fines on salons that let minors tan.
Current state law allows minors to tan as long as they receive parental consent. In Khoury's salon adults must present a valid driver's license to prove they are the child's parent. They must also sign a parental consent form.
"From a parent's angle, I have a 15-year-old, and it disturbs me that there's one more decision being taken away from parents and it's really a personal decision," said Khoury. "The government has other (problems) it should be worrying about."
The bill was voted unfavorable by a senate committee March 15, 6 to 5.
The World Health Organization conducted a study that showed people younger than 35 who use indoor tanning beds and lamps regularly are 75 percent more likely to get melanoma cancer. The study, which was published last year, caused the organization to recommend that minors be banned from tanning.
"It is very important that parents understand the danger associated with indoor tanning beds and lamps," said Delegate William Bronrott, D-Montgomery, and the bill's main sponsor. "What we're trying to do here is to just lay down the law and to draw the line where science is urging us to do so, to help prevent one of the most insidious types of cancer."
Khoury and other opponents of the bill said there are studies showing tanning salons increase intake of vitamin D, a vitamin many Americans are deficient of.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency said that even though tanning beds produce a different and less harmful type of ray, ultraviolet radiation A instead of ultraviolet radiation B, any exposure to ultraviolet rays is dangerous.
The Federal Trade Commission issued a statement in January charging the Indoor Tanning Association with using false claims. The FTC required the association's advertising to "clearly and prominently" state:
"NOTICE: You do not need to become tan for your skin to make vitamin D. Exposure to ultraviolet radiation may increase the likelihood of developing skin cancer and can cause serious eye injury."
Howard County is the only county in the state that bans minors from tanning.
Howard County Health Officer Peter Beilenson said the new law didn't hurt salons.
"There has been zero effect on the businesses so far," said Beilenson. "The very reputable tanning salons were not opposed to it because ... they don't market to minors."
Tanning salons estimated anywhere from 3 to 25 percent of their business comes from teens, according to the bill's fiscal note.
Khoury estimates that less than half of the salon's clients are minors. The main clientele is between the ages of 18 and 34, but recently tanning by people over age 34 has increased.
"There are a good number of clients who are over the age of 18, but I believe that this bill is sending the wrong message," said Khoury. "It's going to (economically) affect us but it'll affect people on so many levels because it's taking away personal choices."
Capital News Service contributed to this report.