ASHEVILLE – Health advocates on Thursday said they want the North Carolina Senate to adopted a ban on people younger than 18 using tanning beds. The state House passed similar legislation last year. A powerful Senate leader said adopting the House bill is unlikely.
"They know its a non-starter," said Sen. Tom Apodaca, R-Hendersonville, the chairman of the powerful Rules Committee. "We believe parents have the right to decide what's best for their children."
Heather Downs was among those calling for the legislation. She was 14 when she started using the tanning beds at the business her parents owned.
By 28, she had been diagnosed with melanoma, a potentially fatal form of skin cancer.
Her doctor broke the news with a call one evening. It was hard on her and her family.
She wants Senators to act.
"They need to know it's important that they pass the bill this year so that we can save lives," she said.
People under 18 must have parental consent to use indoor tanning beds, said Greg Byrd, owner of three Tan Universe salons in Asheville.
He requires parents be at a location to read and sign the forms that provide information about the potential health problems from indoor tanning.
"We think that is enough," he said.
Dr. Daniel Zivony, a dermatologist and skin cancer specialist at Advanced Dermatology and Skin Surgery in Asheville, said teens across the nation learn they have skin cancer every day.
"Telling anyone they have cancer is difficult," he said. "Telling a young person their life may be at risk is especially difficult."
And, he said, many of the cases could be prevented. Teens increase their odds of getting melanoma when they use tanning beds, he said.
Like Downs, he is asking the Senate to pass the legislation. Other states, like Pennsylvania, have recently approved similar laws.
Spring is a busy time for tanning salons as teens get ready for proms and the beach.
The legislation has support from the American Cancer Society, North Carolina Advisory Committee on Cancer Coordination and Control, North Carolina Child Fatality Task Force, North Carolina Dermatology Association, North Carolina Medical Society, North Carolina Oncology Association, North Carolina Pediatric Society and AIM at Melanoma.
MORE: Contact Your NC Senator