Tanning bed laws for teens too lenient in Tennessee - WKRN News 2

Doctor says tanning bed laws for teens too lenient in Tennessee

Posted: Updated: Sep 23, 2013 11:10 PM CDT
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -

Most people love the golden glow of a summertime tan and those who can't get the glow outside often turn to a shortcut and go to tanning salons.

Emily Harley has been going to the tanning bed for years.

"I like it once a week during the wintertime. It makes me feel better. It gives me that extra sun you can't get from going out in the sun during the wintertime," Harley explained.

The Nashville mom told News 2 she sometimes allows her young son to tan too.

"He's 10 years old and I've let him tan a few times, not long, just about four minutes because his skin is very tender.  He has eczema on his arms and legs and if it flares up, the tanning bed is great for drying it out and healing it," Harley continued.

Under state law, it's perfectly legal for Harley's son to use a tanning bed as long as she's with him.

In Tennessee, anyone younger than 18 must have parental consent when they purchase an indoor tanning package. Children under 14 can tan only if a parent is on property with them.

But who is really checking to make sure tanning businesses follow the law?

News 2 has learned it's not up to the Tennessee Health Department, the Division of Consumer Affairs or the Tennessee Board of Cosmetology.

According to those agencies, the responsibility falls to the Food and Drug Administration.

The FDA does perform random checks at tanning salons, but News 2 found it's really up to honest business owners to follow the law.

"We are unaware when they're coming in. Usually it's once a year or it depends when we're on their cycle," said Sylvia Baker at Tan USA.

The Nolensville Pike business makes the law easy for customers to see.

"At Tan USA, on every receipt there is a copy of the regulations and state law on underage tanning," said Baker.

However, dermatologists like Dr. Michael Gold believe Tennessee's laws aren't tough enough.

He warns excessive tanning, especially at a young age, can have serious consequences.

"We have seen a huge increase over the last five years or so in the amount of young people, not only developing what we would consider the simple skin cancers, the basil cell, squamous cell cancers, but the rise in the malignant melanoma again among young people has just been staggering," he said.

According to Dr. Gold, more than 80% of sun damage occurs before age 20.

He encourages patients who want that golden glow to get it from a bottle.

Spray tans are also offered at Tan USA and are a popular option among clients of all ages.

Currently, states that have the strictest underage tanning laws are California, Nevada, Vermont and Texas.

Those states prohibit indoor tanning for anyone under 18.

The list will grow to include Illinois and Oregon this January.

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