PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Rhode Island took a step toward adopting some of the nation’s tightest restrictions on artificial tanning Tuesday when the state Senate voted to prohibit minors from using tanning beds without a doctor’s prescription.
The measure, which now moves to the state House of Representatives, is designed to keep minors out of tanning salons until they’re old enough to weigh the risks of skin cancer, according to the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Rhoda Perry.
“Cancer as a whole is a public health crisis,” said Perry, D-Providence. “We protect our children from cigarette smoking and from drugs and alcohol as best we can. It makes no sense to allow this.”
Only the state of California currently bans minors from using tanning booths. Many states require parental consent for minors to use tanning salons. Rhode Island now requires a parent to give permission in person.
Salon owners have urged lawmakers to defeat what they say is a potentially business-killing proposition. Paula Moran, a manager at Le Soleil Tanning in Pawtucket, said the current rules work just fine. She’s worked at the salon for 20 years.
Moran said minors make up about 20 percent of her salon business. She said most teens only use the salon once or twice a year, before the winter high school dance or the prom later in the spring, she said. They don’t have the money to tan more often than that, she said.
“But 20 percent of our business in a recessed economy, that’s going to be a big hurt for a small industry,” she said.
The proposal passed the Senate on a 26-8 vote. It passed the Senate last year but not the House. Legislative opponents predicted the measure would again run into opposition from lawmakers wary of passing legislation that could hurt local businesses.
“It’s too much regulation and our laws are too voluminous as is,” said Sen. Glenford Shibley, a Coventry Republican. “I understand the health concerns, but if it’s that bad, the FDA should do something.”
Moran predicts that if Rhode Island adopts the same level of restrictions, minors will use fake identification to convince salon owners that they’re over 18 or they’ll head to salons in nearby Massachusetts. That state allows minors, ages 14 to 18, to tan with a parent’s permission.
“As soon as you tell a teenager they can’t do something, they’ll find a way,” she said.