Christopher Washington

Ohio’s teenagers could be forced to tan under a new light, with the recent development of a bill from Ohio Representative Courtney Combs (R-Hamilton) to prohibit the use of tanning beds to those under age 18.

Lewis Barich, co-chair of the Ohio State Medical Association and the Ohio Dermatological Association, who worked closely with Combs to develop the legislation, said the suggestion to create the bill was presented to Combs in October 2006. Although Combs was unavailable for comment, Barich said the request for the bill was a response from Hamilton City Council to the growing dangers of the use of tanning bed facilities, specifically for teenagers.

“People receive most of their lifetime exposure to ultraviolet light before the age of 18,” Barich said. “Tanning rays penetrate deeper and the children’s immune systems (are) not fully developed.”

Barich said Hamilton City Council produced an ordinance regarding tanning in 1989, which permitted underage tanning provided parental consent was produced. This ordinance eventually developed into a statewide law.

Hamilton Law Director Hilary Stevenson said many local doctors approached city council because of the fears associated with excessive tanning.

“There were a number of doctors that specialized in dermatological issues like cancers and such and approached city council and asked if we would consider legislation of this nature,” Stevenson said.

While much of the Miami University community is over the age of 18, the proposed legislation has caught the attention of several Oxford and Miami community members.

Keith Zullig; assistant professor of physical education, health and sports studies; said the legislation is important because of the protection it provides for those who are younger.

“I think anything is always good that can protect kids because the human brain isn’t fully developed until 25,” Zullig said.

Miami senior Sari Kimmel, a student of Zullig, said the younger generation does not consider the consequences when choosing to use a tanning facility.

“People aren’t thinking about the health risks,” Kimmel said. “People make snap judgments and aren’t thinking about the here and now.”

But James Evesglade, owner of Oxford’s Miami Beach tanning salon, said he is very skeptical of the legislation because of the difficulty that could be involved in administering the bill. Evesglade said he compared underage tanning to underage smoking.

“First off the legislation won’t pass,” Evesglade said. “It’s going to be so hard to enforce. Some students come in with a parent’s consent. It’s a woman’s right to choose, it’s her choice to do what she wants. I don’t see what they’re trying to accomplish.”

In defense of the bill, Miami junior Heather Roark, another student of Zullig, said that even though individuals choose to use tanning beds, they are aware of the dangers.

“The warnings are there,” Roark said. “Every time I walk (into a tanning facility), I see the eye warning and you see the pictures of eye damage.”

However, Miami sophomore Bree McLaughlin echoed Evesglade’s sentiments and said the government should not determine the outcome of a personal choice.

“I don’t think the state should be able to regulate something like tanning,” McLaughlin said. “I feel that it should be the parents right to choose.”

In contrast, Miami sophomore Brittany Lipinsky, a zoology major, said enforcement regarding tanning regulations is important because of the health implications involved. She said it is important for individuals to be aware of the health risks when tanning.

“I think that this is a good way to reduce the number of people in the United States that have been diagnosed with skin cancer,” Lipinsky said. “I think it’s smart because some people are unaware of the consequences of tanning and how severe it can be.”

Barich said there are approximately one million cases of skin cancer each year, many of which are caused from excessive tanning. He said he stresses the importance of this bill because skin cancer is preventable.

According to Barich, the overuse of tanning beds has a drastic effect on the skin. In response to individuals who attend tanning facilities to develop a “base tan” prior to extensive time spent in the sun, he said 20 minutes of time spent in a tanning bed is equivalent to five hours of time spent in natural sunlight. Barich said the repercussions of excessive tanning can lead to cataracts, premature aging of the skin and tunnel vision which can result in blindness.

“Once people pass through this fascination with ultraviolet light and get a little bit older, they really regret their time spent in the tanning beds,” Barich said. “We really need to educate people about the hazards of tanning.”

Although Barich was unable to give a specific date, he said the legislation to ban underage tanning will be introduced in the coming months.