California girls wanting a beach-bronzed look will have to get it the natural way, thanks to a new law barring teens under 18 from using tanning beds.
Gov. Jerry Brown signed the provision into law, the first state law of its kind, on Sunday. Other states, including New York, Illinois, Rhode Island and Ohio are considering similar measures, and at least 30 states now have at least some age restrictions — covering younger teens — on tanning bed use.
Until the new law goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2012, teens under 14 will continue to be banned from using tanning beds in California, but those aged 15 to 17 will be able to do so with parental permission. Teens under 18 make up 5% to 10% of tanning-bed users nationally, according to the Indoor Tanning Association.
Teen girls may be particularly susceptible to the lure of tanning in California, where in many communities, having a sun-kissed glow is considered beautiful, as the bill's author, State Sen. Ted Lieu pointed out to the Associated Press, noting that tanning salons outnumber Starbucks or McDonald's in Los Angeles County.
Left to their own devices, tanning salons aren't likely to keep their youngest customers safe, at least according to a 2009 study sponsored by NCI and published in the Archives of Dermatology. As part of the study, researchers trained female college students to pose as fair-skinned, 15-year-old first-time tanners in phone consultations with 3,600 tanning salons in 50 states. They found that fewer than 11% of the salons adhered to government recommendations on sunlamp exposure, which limits tanning to no more than three sessions in the first week; 71% of the salons said they would allow tanning every day for the first week and many promoted frequent tanning with "unlimited tanning" discount price packages.