SALT LAKE CITY — Utah lawmakers have made tanning salons like theaters showing R-rated movies: under 18 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.
Salons would not be allowed to admit children unless their parents or legal guardian are with them and provide written consent on each visit under a bill that has now passed in the House and Senate.
"Parents have a right to know when their children are taking on a known carcinogen," said Rep. Brad Wilson, R-Kaysville, House sponsor of SB41. "This is something that is so risky that we ought to have a parent know every time a child goes in to do this."
The state already restricts children from R-rated movies, tattoos and body piercing without parental consent.
"UV radiation is much more harmful to these kids than any of those things," he said. "I know this bill will save lives."
House members hotly debated the bill on Wednesday before narrowly approving it 39-32. It now goes to the governor for consideration.
Rep. Greg Hughes, R-Draper, unsuccessfully attempted to replace the bill with a less restrictive version that was similar to the current law. Since 2007, Utah has required a parent to sign an annual release form for children to use a tanning bed.
Hughes called HB41 a "cleverly" crafted measure designed to make teen tanning so arduous so as to stop it.
"I think parents have the ability to make this decision," he said. "If we feel parents are not involved enough why not enforce the laws that are on the books today?"
Wilson argued that tanning salons are lax in obtaining parental permission and parents have no idea how often their children tan.
Rep. John Dougall, R-American Fork, said the state can pass laws against kids smoking or drinking, but part of being a teenager is learning what is and isn't good.
"We should not be passing laws that say we want mommy and daddy to take junior here, there and everywhere," he said.
Wilson said young people who tan run a greater risk of getting skin cancer, noting that the chance of melanoma increase 75 percent with tanning bed use before age 30.
"If all the discussion is about health risk, we should outright ban it," Hughes said.
Sen. Pat Jones' initial version of the bill aimed to ban children from tanning beds. But Satl Lake Democrat made several comprimises to arrive at the version that passed Wednesday.