Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R) vetoed L.D. 272 on Thursday, a bill that would prohibit Mainers under the age of 18 from using indoor tanning salons in an effort to protect youth from skin cancer risk. In his veto message, the governor ridiculed the measure as “government run amok” that “tells parents that Augusta knows better than they do when it comes to their children.”
To explain his veto decision, LePage claimed that the bill would do nothing to “stop teenagers from lying in the sun or spending hours in privately owned tanning beds” in their homes. But arguing that a public health and safety initiative banning indoor tanning is toothless just because it doesn’t prevent private use is akin saying that tobacco and alcohol restrictions also serve no purpose, since kids can just sneak into personal stashes at home. And the kids who soak up natural rays from the sun are much less at risk for skin cancer than the kids who are exposed to the the highly concentrated UV rays in tanning beds, according to a 2010 American Association for Cancer Research study.
In fact, there is zero doubt in the scientific and medical communities that the use of tanning beds increases the risk for melanoma by exposing users to unhealthy levels of UV radiation. The Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) website has an entire section dedicated to debunking myths about indoor tanning safety, noting that tanning bed use is “particularly dangerous for younger users” as “people who begin tanning younger than age 35 have a 75% higher risk of melanoma.” Nevertheless, tanning salons often outright ignore U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) safety recommendations governing minors’ use of commercial tanning beds. A 2009 National Cancer Institute (NCI) investigative study found that less than 11 percent of tanning facilities followed FDA’s safety schedule limiting young people’s use of the beds to three times a week at most, and the vast majority would allow teens to use their facilities all seven days for the first week.
Back in 2006, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) concluded that “policymakers should consider enacting measures, such as prohibiting minors and discouraging young adults from using indoor tanning facilities, to protect the general population from possible additional risk for melanoma.” It should consequently come as no surprise that L.D. 272’s strongest proponents are doctors in Maine’s legislature. Sen. Geoffrey Gratwick (D), a physician, said of LePage’s veto, “There are times when science and medicine should supersede politics. This is one of those times.”
Vermont and California already have laws similar to L.D. 272 on the books, and just last week, Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) signed a bill banning minors under age 17 form using commercial tanning beds and children under age 14 from using spray tans in his state. Christie asserted that the bill was “important for protecting the safety of minors” in New Jersey.