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Pa. lawmaker wants to ban minors from tanning beds - abc27 WHTM

Pa. lawmaker wants to ban minors from tanning beds

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) -

Spring has sprung, the sun has returned, and so have the crowds to tanning salons like LA Bronze outside Harrisburg.

"Everyone's coming out of hibernation," said Erin Harmes, manager at LA Bronze, who estimates that teen tanners are as much as 80 percent of her business this time of year.

"Our clientele is younger students and they come in and they want to tan. It's one time a year. They have their prom, and they want to make it special and want to get a little glow," Harmes said.

State Representative Rosemarie Swanger (R-Lebanon) has less-than-glowing reviews for fake baking.

"Indoor tanning is essentially a cigarette for the skin," Swanger said Monday at a news conference announcing her introduction of House Bill 977, a measure that would ban minors from tanning beds.

"While teenagers want to look healthy with a nice tan, I'm asking, 'Is it worth it?' Is it worth jeopardizing your very life to get tan?" Swanger said.

The medical community supports Swanger's efforts. Doctors say ultraviolet light is linked to cancer, and anyone who uses a tanning bed before the age of 35 is 75 percent more likely to develop skin cancer later in life.

"It is as carcinogenic as plutonium, arsenic, mustard gas, or cigarettes," said Dr. Rogerio Neves with the Penn State Melanoma Center. "Everybody knows that."

But sadly Doreen Buckel didn't know it. Through sobs at the news conference for Swanger's bill, Buckel told her story.

"I had to listen to my daughter cry out, 'I don't want to die, mom. I'm too young,' " Buckel said.

Buckel's daughter Jennifer began tanning for her prom at 17 and made it part of her weekly routine for years. She died at 27 after cancer spread throughout her body.

"It ripped our hearts out to see our child suffer, and it made me feel really guilty that I did not protect her. As a parent I didn't know the dangers," Buckel said.

Swanger and Buckel said they want to educate parents and help them by removing kids from danger. Swanger says the state bars kids from buying cigarettes and alcohol and should do the same with tanning beds.

Swanger concedes it's an uphill fight in the legislature. She knows some of her colleagues will say tanning is a personal choice or a parental choice. But Swanger is undeterred and says she wants to stop people from making a potentially deadly choice.

"Don't people have the right to make stupid decisions?" Swanger asked mockingly. "Well, yes they do if they're adults, but kids really don't have the ability at that point to make those critical decisions."

Swanger's bill would also regulate the tanning industry, which is currently unregulated in Pennsylvania. It would require the Department of Health to inspect and license tanning facilities.

California, Vermont and New Jersey are the only states that ban minors from tanning beds. Several others require parental consent.

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