NEW ORLEANS - Six other states, and countries like Canada and the UK, have banned tanning beds for younger teens. Now some Louisiana lawmakers will try to do it as well.
But the $2 billion-a-year U.S. tanning industry says the decision should be up to parents.
Tanning beds are under fire in the legislature. At issue are teens. Those 13 and younger, are already banned, but now doctors want 14 to 17-year-olds banned as well.
"It's a clear cut issue. There's no debate. It's a very dangerous cancer. We're finding melanomas on body parts that generally would not be exposed to the sun, so we know they are from indoor tanning," says Dr. Mara Haseltine, President of the Louisiana Dermatological Society. She is also faculty at LSUHSC and Tulane and is in private practice in Metairie at Poole Dermatology.
Melanomas are the most deadly form of skin cancer. If it spreads to the lymph nodes, more than a third of patients will die from the illness in five years. And it's skyrocketing in young women.
"The more sunburns you have before you're 18, you're more likely to get melanoma later in life," explained Dr. Haseltine.
Right now, the law states that 14 to 17-year-olds must have parental permission. Planet Beach follows that rule.
"We have their parent come in and we have them sign the release form. All of our consultants are trained on that," said Ashley Stein, spa director of the Riverbend Plant Beach Contempo Spa.
At Planet Beach, a parent must sign the form in person. The company says health and any risks are important. It stresses moderation to customers who only use the UV tanning services, not the other spa services.
Other people we talked to by phone in the tanning industry, say it's a parental decision, not the government's. And that teens will just go in the sun instead of a timed tanning bed.
But doctors say some businesses give inaccurate health information, few comply with parental consent and they market to high school girls.
"A lot of times parents don't know the data. They don't know how dangerous it is. Our bill HB746 will save lives and health care dollars, you know, billions of dollars are spent on skin cancer every year," said Dr. Haseltine.
"It just made sense. I want to do whatever's possible to prevent young people in Louisiana from having to battle a deadly disease," said bill sponsor Representative Helena Moreno, a democrat from New Orleans. She says she was approached by doctors who are behind the bill. The American Academy of Pediatrics, The American Academy of Dermatology, The American Cancer Society, and the World Health Organization also support this type of legislation.
The FDA says tanning beds are a Group 1 carcinogen, the same as tobacco.
The industry says there are benefits to tanning.
The committee hearing is Wednesday.