AUGUSTA, Maine — The Maine House voted largely along party lines Tuesday in favor of a bill that would bar anyone younger than 18 from using commercial tanning beds.
Democrats cast the bill, LD 272, as a needed measure to protect public health and reduce the likelihood of skin cancer among young people, while Republicans said the legislation was an example of government making a decision best left up to families.
The measure, sponsored by Sen. Geoffrey Gratwick, D-Bangor, passed the House 82-63. It faces additional House and Senate votes.
Maine already has some youth tanning restrictions on the books; the state requires parental consent forms for any minor using a tanning bed.
And following legislation that passed in 2009, new state rules will soon make commercial tanning off limits for anyone younger than 14. In addition, the rules will require that parents accompany their 14- and 15-year-olds to the tanning salon and sign consent forms after being given information about the dangers of tanning. Parents will also have to sign consent forms for 16- and 17-year-olds.
During debate on the House floor Tuesday, Republicans said lawmakers need to let those newest restrictions take effect and play out before changing them. Democrats, however, said banning all commercial tanning for those younger than 18 will raise awareness about the skin cancer risks of indoor tanning.
“I see this bill as a public health issue that educates both children and their parents,” said Rep. Janice Cooper, D-Yarmouth. “I don’t think it is widely known just how dangerous these tanning booths are. This is a way to get this information across.”
“I appreciate what the last Legislature did to try to help this problem, but I actually think that we have to have more regulation to protect our children,” said Rep. Ann Dorney, D-Norridgewock, a family physician.
Republicans argued a blanket ban on commercial tanning by minors won’t help the problem. It will simply inspire teenage tanners to use less safe, in-home tanning beds, said Rep. Deborah Sanderson, R-Chelsea.
“Passage of this legislation denying teenagers with consent by their parents will actually hurt more than it helps,” she said. “Teens will simply tan more aggressively outdoors or will turn to unregulated home tanning beds in the basements of their friends.”
Rep. Lance Harvell, R-Farmington, said the bill represented a major government overreach.
“It might well be called ‘An Act to Neuter Parents,’” he said. “I, for one, know that I do not want to be the parent of 1.3 million people.”
A spokesman for Gov. Paul LePage said the governor hasn’t taken a position on the bill.
If the bill takes effect, Maine would join California and Vermont in banning commercial tanning for anyone younger than 18, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified Rep. Deborah Sanderson of Chelsea as a Democrat. Sanderson is a Republican.