Maine is weighing whether to outlaw indoor tanning for teens

Tanning technician Meghan Jordan wipes down a tanning bed at Sunrich Tanning Boutique in Bangor in July 2009. (BDN FILE PHOTO | KEVIN BENNETT)

Summer may still feel a long way away, but Maine lawmakers are again gearing up to decide whether teens should be tanning.

On Monday, the Legislature will hold a public hearing on a bill that would outlaw the use of tanning beds and other tanning devices by anyone under the age of 18.

A similar bill passed the Maine House and Senate in 2013, along party lines, with Democrats hailing the measure as beneficial to public health and Republicans characterizing it as an example of government overreach. But Gov. Paul LePage later vetoed the bill, saying it “tells Maine parents that Augusta knows better than they do when it comes to their children.”

In a fresh twist, a Republican sponsored the bill up for debate on Monday, Sen. Amy Volk, R-Scarborough.

Studies have linked exposure to UV radiation from sunlight and tanning beds to the development of skin cancer. Melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, is now the second most common type of cancer among females aged 15 to 29, according to the American Cancer Society. Indoor tanning before the age of 35 is estimated to increase the risk of melanoma by 59 percent.

Adolescents are particularly at risk because their skin is not yet fully developed.

In 2017, the American Cancer Society estimates that 450 Mainers will be diagnosed with melanoma. Rates for melanoma in Maine exceed the national average.

Plenty of Maine teenagers are hitting tanning beds to get a summertime glow. Nearly 13 percent of Maine high school students used a tanning device at least once during the previous year, according to a 2015 state survey. Rates are highest among girls — nearly a quarter of female high school seniors tan, the survey found.

Under current law, minors under age 14 are prohibited from using tanning equipment. Minors older than 14 must provide written consent from a parent or legal guardian and written acknowledgement of the dangers of ultraviolet radiation. The parent or guardian must also be present while kids aged 14 and 15 use the tanning equipment.

If Maine bans tanning for minors, it would join 15 other states — including New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Vermont — that already outlaw the devices for anyone under age 18.

Source: National Conference of State Legislatures

The new legislation would not apply to spray tanning or therapeutic and diagnostic equipment that emits ultraviolet radiation.

Jackie Farwell

About Jackie Farwell

I'm the health editor for the Bangor Daily News, a Bangor native, a UMaine grad, and a weekend crossword warrior. I never get sick of writing about Maine people, geeking out over health care data, and finding new ways to help you stay well. I live in Gorham with my husband Nick and our hound dog Riley.