Bill banning tanning bed use by minors moves forward this session

(UM Legislative News Service) After three failed attempts in previous sessions, a bill that would prevent minors from using tanning beds is moving through the Legislature.

Sen. Roger Webb, R-Billings, is sponsoring Senate Bill 21, which passed the Senate 26-24 in February and had its first hearing in a House committee Friday.

Dr. Charlotte Kutsch with the Montana Academy of Dermatology, who was one of 10 supporters of the bill during its hearing, said minors who use tanning beds have a greater chance of getting melanoma.

“And the science is clear. If you use indoor tanning beds, your risk of developing skin cancer significantly increases. No amount of UV exposure from tanning beds is safe. By definition a tan is evidence of skin damage,” Kutsch said.

According to the state health and human services department, 240 Montanans are diagnosed with melanoma every year.

S.K. Rossi with the ACLU was one of three opponents to the bill. Rossi agrees tanning beds should have more regulations, but says penalizing tanning facilities with up to a $500 fine, as well as 6 months jail time, is too severe.

“We just don’t think this should be in the criminal code. It seems a little harsh to put a business owner in jail for up to six months for— possibly accidentally— letting a minor use a tanning bed,” Rossi said.

Tim Pierce is a reporter with the UM Legislative News Service, a partnership of the University of Montana School of Journalism, the Montana Broadcasters Association, the Greater Montana Foundation and the Montana Newspaper Association.