FDA looks to crack down on teens use of tanning salons

The agency proposes new regulations to restrict a popular activity that it says is harmful to public health.

Rich Pedroncelli/AP/File
An open tanning bed in Sacramento, Calif., Dec. 9, 2011. Federal health officials on Friday proposed a ban on the use of tanning beds for anyone under the age of 18. The Food and Drug Administration proposal would also require tanning bed users to sign consent forms acknowledging the risks of the radiation-emitting devices.

The US Food and Drug Administration on Friday said it wants to help prevent people, particularly minors, from using indoor tanning facilities, which public health officials have linked to development of skin cancer.

The agency has proposed banning people younger than 18 from using sunbeds and requiring sunlamp manufacturers and tanning facilities to make the devices more safe.

For adult users, the FDA proposal would require them to have to sign a form acknowledging they understand that indoor tanning exposes users to radiation before their first session and every six months thereafter.

The agency also wants tanning facilities and manufacturers to make warnings easier to read and more prominent on tanning devices, and to require an emergency shut-off switches, or “panic buttons” on sun lamps, among other changes.

“Today’s action is intended to help protect young people from a known and preventable cause of skin cancer and other harms,” said acting FDA Commissioner Stephen Ostroff, in an online announcement.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, injuries related to indoor tanning resulted in more than 3,000 emergency room visits on average per year in the United States, based on about a decade of data leading up to 2012.

There are up to 19,000 indoor tanning salons and up to another 20,000 other facilities, such as health clubs and spas, that offer tanning services in the US. They attract 1.6 million minors each year, estimates the FDA, particularly girls.

Last year the FDA began to require warnings on tanning beds advising minors to not use them, reports the Associated Press, which also reports that the agency has regulated tanning machines for several decades, but until recently had not attempted to restrict their use.

Some states already prohibit minors from tanning in indoor facilities. In 2013, New Jersey passed a law banning children under age 17 from using commercial tanning beds after a local woman was accused of taking her 5-year-old daughter into a tanning booth.

This report contains material from the Associated Press.

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