AUGUSTA, Maine — Gov. Paul LePage vetoed a bill Thursday that would prohibit teens younger than age 18 from using tanning beds. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Geoffrey Gratwick, D-Bangor, a physician, pitted Democrats who portrayed it as good public health policy against Republicans who argued that it robbed parents of their rights to make decisions about their children’s lives.
LePage informed legislators Thursday morning that he has vetoed LD 272, An Act to Reduce Youth Cancer Risk.
“This bill does one thing: it tells Maine parents that Augusta knows better than they do when it comes to their children,” LePage wrote. “Instead of the current law that requires parents to give permission to their children tanning, this says that children are banned from it, regardless of what the parent thinks. This is government run amok. Maine parents can make the right decisions for their families.”
The bill came out of the Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee in February with a divided report and passed on largely partisan votes earlier this week, 91-56 in the House of Representatives and 19-16 in the Senate. Neither of those tallies is sufficient to achieve the two-thirds support that would be required in each chamber to override the veto.
During legislative debate on the bill, Democratic lawmakers, including Gratwick and other medical professionals, pointed to scientific research that links tanning bed use to increased risk of melanoma, a type of skin cancer with higher mortality rates. They likened the ban to prohibitions on the use of cigarettes and alcohol by minors.
Some Republicans argued that new state rules that would make tanning off limits to anyone younger than 14 and require parental consent for older teenagers need to take effect before legislators again change the law. Others framed the measure as an example of excessive government intrusion into decisions that should be left to private citizens.
LePage reiterated that position when he announced his veto publicly Thursday morning on Twitter, where he said, “Maine parents can make the right decisions for their families. This is why I have vetoed LD 272.”
Gratwick reacted to the veto with disappointment.
“There are times when science and medicine should supersede politics,” he said Thursday in a prepared statement. “This is one of those times. It is medically proven that teens who use tanning beds increase their risk of cancer by 75 percent. This is surely a public health issue. It is definitely a safety issue.”
During Senate debate Wednesday on the tanning bill, Democrats pointed to a decision earlier this week by New Jersey Republican Gov. Chris Christie to sign a similar tanning ban into law. The New Jersey bill will prohibit anyone younger than 17 from using commercial tanning beds.
California and Vermont currently prohibit people younger than 18 from using tanning beds.
This is LePage’s second veto of this legislative session. On Tuesday, he vetoed a bill that would have revised payment systems for registers of deeds. The House voted Wednesday to override that bill, LD 49, but the Senate failed by one vote to muster the two-thirds majority required for an override.
The Senate will likely take up the tanning bill veto next week, according to Ericka Dodge, a spokeswoman for Maine Senate President Justin Alfond, D-Portland.