The U.S. Food and Drug Administration proposed new rules on Friday that would prohibit people younger than 18 from using tanning equipment such as beds and booths. Eleven states and Washington, D.C., already ban the use of tanning beds for all minors under 18, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
"The effects of exposure to UV radiation add up over one’s lifetime. Therefore, UV radiation exposure in youth and teenagers puts them at a greater risk for skin and eye damage later in life," according to the FDA. The agency said every year, tanning equipment produces more than 3,000 hospital emergency room cases.
The proposed rules would restrict use of sunlamp products to those ages 18 and older, and require sunlamp manufacturers and tanning facilities to improve the safety of these devices. Among the improvements required: making warnings easier to read, requiring an emergency off switch, limiting the amount of light allowed through protective eyewear, improving labeling on bulbs, and prohibiting modifications like installing stronger bulbs without FDA recertification.
Some tanning businesses offer specials for high school students.
More than 1.6 million minors indoor-tan each year, based the 2013 National Youth Risk Behavior Survey, conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Data from the Skin Cancer Foundation show less than half of teenagers use sunscreen, and 37% of white females and over 11% of white males between 13 and 19 years old in the U.S. have used tanning booths.
The FDA estimates there are at least 18,000 indoor tanning salons and between 15,000 and 20,000 other facilities like health clubs and spas that offer tanning services in the U.S.
Tanning drew attention a few years ago when a New Jersey mother faced a grand jury after bringing her 5-year-old daughter to a tanning salon, where the girl was burned on her legs. The grand jury eventually declined to indict the mother; New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie later signed the "Tan Mom Law" that banned children under 17 from using commercial tanning beds.