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Proposal To Ban Minors From Tanning Heads To Governor's Desk

An image of a tanning bed in use

Legislation that would ban minors from using tanning beds is heading to the Governor's desk. State Senators gave overwhelming support to House Bill 158 - "The Teen Skin Cancer Prevention Act" on Wednesday afternoon.

This proposal would ban anyone under 18 from using a tanning bed. Presently, teenagers ages 14 to 17 can artificially tan with written parental consent. A similar proposal died in the Senate two years ago after it did not receive a vote.

"This bill is very important in terms of looking at how to prevent some of the problems that can occur that do cost money in the healthcare industry, but also protecting our young people," said Gladys Robinson (D-Guilford County).

Robinson was among the 48 Senators who approved the plan. Republicans Phil Berger and Tom Apodaca were the only ones who voted against the measure. Apodaca, the state Senate Rules Chairman, gave an unprompted explanation of his vote to the full chamber later in the afternoon.

"We received some funny looks, my wingman and myself; but we do believe it's a parent's privilege and right to decide what their children do in this instance," Apodaca (R-Henderson) said. "If a parent deems it's O.K. for their child to go to a tanning bed, although I wouldn't agree with it and sign it, I think the parent should have that right."

Berger, the state Senate Pro Tem, called it "government overreach" following the floor session.

"There are several reasons why teenagers want to tan," said Charles Swain, who opened Ultimate Tanning in Wilmington 25 years ago. "Some teenagers want to tan, sure. Others use it because they have a skin issue and they want to clear up acne. Prom season is a busier time for us. Other kids have been bullied because of their skin."

Swain said minors' comprise only a small portion of his business, estimating it at 2%.

"I'm not sure this is something government officials need to be involved in," Swain said.

"I think there is some misinformation out there. This is a controlled environment. We care about our customers and we very closely monitor activity in the tanning beds."

House Bill 158 now heads to the Governor's desk. It would become law on October 1st.


Jeff Tiberii is the co-host of WUNC's "Due South." Jeff joined WUNC in 2011. During his 20 years in public radio, he was Morning Edition Host at WFDD and WUNC’s Greensboro Bureau Chief and later, the Capitol Bureau Chief. Jeff has covered state and federal politics, produced the radio documentary “Right Turn,” launched a podcast, and was named North Carolina Radio Reporter of the Year four times.
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