COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio lawmakers introduced a bill that would ban children and teens from using tanning beds.
"I always thought, 'Well, my mom did it, so then it was okay for me,'" Sean Brennan, a Parma resident, said.
Brennan started to tan when he was in high school.
"I went into those tanning beds, and it worries me about the long-term consequences," he said.
Because of that, he makes sure to get checked by his dermatologists a few times a year.
"The tanning bed just greatly increases your risk of all forms of carcinoma," he added. "We have a responsibility as a society to protect our young people from dangers."
He has a unique role in being able to change regulations to protect kids — because he is a Democratic state representative in the Ohio House.
House Bill 169
State Reps. Brennan (D-Parma) and Brett Hillyer (R-Uhrichsville) introduced House Bill 169, which would ban anyone under 18 from using a tanning booth.
The bill has been assigned to a committee and will likely be heard in the next few months.
Current law allows any child to access a tanning bed with parental permission. With written consent, 16 and 17-year-olds are able to go under the lamp.
Children under 16 who want to tan need written consent, and the guardian must be at the facility during the session.
The existing law works well, according to Donovan O'Neil with Americans for Prosperity.
"If that's a choice that the parent wants to make and the child is clearly okay with participating in as well, and it's in a licensed business in the state of Ohio — that seems like the right amount of regulation," O'Neil said.
The bill seems like government overreach, and it can hurt businesses, he argued.
"Introducing more government, more regulation, more red tape into the equation is just going to impact business in the state of Ohio and ultimately be frustrating to folks looking to utilize a tanning bed service," he said.
Luke Hanks with the Ohio State Schools of Cosmetology weighed in, saying both views make sense.
"I think from a business standpoint, there could be a minimal impact," Hanks said. "Ethically, that's where it gets tricky."
Listing the pros and cons, he said due to scientific research, he may have to side with Brennan — still noting it is a "tough situation."
Melanoma, a type of skin cancer, is one of the most common cancers in those under 30, especially women, according to the American Cancer Society. Doctors believe the leading cause of melanoma is radiation from the sun and tanning lamps and beds, the Mayo Clinic reported.
"In the age of the internet and where we are today, folks understand the risks that they're participating in," O'Neil said. "Ultimately, we need to leave it to the parents.
We don't need the state of Ohio — out of Columbus — making that decision for us. Just let people be free."
If a teen sees a relative, a friend or advertisements on social media glamorizing tanning, that could influence "risky indoor tanning behaviors" and cause the child to believe misinformation about the "benefits" of tanning, according to researchers at Penn State.
O'Neil doesn't fully understand why the lawmakers are focusing on indoor tanning when there are bigger fish to fry at the Statehouse.
"Everybody has the right to introduce a bill have discussed, but that does take time out of the legislative process," the conservative advocate said. "Let's be tackling the big issues like flat tax... and education opportunity."
Tanning beds can cause life-threatening cancer, so this is a big deal, Brennan argued.
"We already protect them from smoking and drugs and alcohol and child labor," Brennan said. "This is just another way of us as a society working together in a bipartisan fashion to protect our young people from the dangers of tanning beds."
Brennan regrets his time in the tanning beds. However, he and his mother, Barbara Brennan, didn't have any of the data Ohioans have now that shows the danger of going to the tanning salon.
Barbara died of breast cancer in 2011, so Brennan knows what it is like to lose someone to cancer.
"We need to take the precautions we can so that we don't end up with the bad news, like my mom and so many people that will watch this," Brennan said.
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