For many young women, a tan is a beauty benchmark — the perfect accessory for prom or spring break.
But there is no such thing as a safe tan, said Dr. Bruce Brod, a Lancaster dermatologist.
"Too often in my practice, I see young women with melanoma," he said.
Even those who detect it early and are cured often worry for the rest of their lives that the deadliest form of skin cancer will come back, Brod said — they don't feel safe in their own skin.
"Many of those women are women who started indoor tanning at a young age," Brod said.
But a bill that has passed Pennsylvania's Senate health committee would prevent many minors from indoor tanning.
The bill: The Indoor Tanning Regulation Act, a House bill introduced in May 2013, passed the committee 11-0 on March 19 after being stalled in the Senate for the past eight months.
The bill would ban minors age 16 and younger from using tanning facilities and require 17-year-olds to have written parental consent. It would also require tanning devices to meet federal and state standards, as well as require tanning facilities to post warning signs on the premises.
There was no real debate among the health committee, said Sen. Rob Teplitz, D-York/Dauphin, who voted in favor of the bill.
He called it a "no-brainer" and said he has the same attitude toward tanning as smoking: He doesn't understand why young people would start doing activities proven to cause cancer.
"It was an easy decision to make to support the bill," Teplitz said.
No regulation: The main argument against the bill is that parents should be able to make decisions for their children.
But tanning is just another dangerous activity that needs to be regulated, Teplitz said.
"There are a lot of things that we prevent minors from doing for their own good, regardless of what their parents think," he said.
Pennsylvania is the only state east of the Mississippi River without tanning bed regulation. A 2-year-old can go if she can get herself there, said Brod, legislative coordinator for the Pennsylvania Academy of Dermatology.
"When it comes to life-and-death health decisions, that's when I think it is good to have some government intervention," he said.
The bill doesn't apply to spray tanning, which sprays a user with chemicals that temporarily dye the skin. Brod said spray tanning is fine in moderation, especially for special events.
The Indoor Tanning Regulation Act went through the committee with an amendment and awaits a vote by the full Senate. Since minor changes were made, concurrence is needed in the House before it gets to Gov. Tom Corbett's desk. The bill has until the end of November before it dies, Teplitz said.
"It's moving along, but until it's signed into the law by the governor, we won't rest easy," Brod said.
— Reach Mollie Durkin at firstname.lastname@example.org.