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Study finds over one-third of tanning salons serve minors, despite state bans

Researchers say adhering to the restrictions could save thousands of lives and millions of dollars

Photo (c) Goldfaery - Getty Images
A new study has found that over one-third of U.S. tanning salons (37.2 percent) violate state regulations banning access to indoor tanning for minors.

Researchers from Loyola University, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and the Marshfield Clinic say the noncompliance puts young people at risk, pointing to previous findings that have connected indoor tanning with increased risk of cancer.

“The US Food and Drug Administration has classified tanning beds as carcinogenic,” the researchers said. “Compliance with state legislation aimed at limiting tanning bed use among U.S. minors is unsatisfactory, indicating that additional efforts to enforce the laws and education of the harmful effects of UV tanning are necessary.”

Over one-third noncompliant

The researchers came to their conclusions after conducting a cross-sectional telephone survey in 42 states and the District of Columbia – all of which have passed legislation that prohibit minors from using indoor tanning services.

Three researchers posed as minors and called a total of 427 tanning salons to request tanning services before an alleged family vacation. In each call, the researchers recorded whether employees would allow tanning services to be administered and the reason why the establishment was noncompliant.

The results showed that 159 of the 427 tanning salons contacted were noncompliant with their state’s laws. In particular, the researchers found that tanning salons in South and in rural areas – as well as independently owned establishments – were the most likely to have decreased compliance rates.

Tanning salons were most likely to be noncompliant if the calling “minor” had parental consent, despite the fact that such consent does not override state bans.

Thousands of deaths and millions in treatment costs

This isn’t the first study to showcase tanning salons’ widespread noncompliance in serving minors. In June, a separate study found that one-fifth of tanning salons still served minors despite state bans.

Researchers from that study also found that many establishments provided false or misleading health information to clients, including that tanning increases vitamin D production, improves the skin cosmetically, and can serve as a treatment for skin diseases.

Researchers from the most recent study point out that proper adherence to state laws – as well as a full and comprehensive ban on indoor tanning for minors -- could help prevent thousands of deaths related to skin cancer and save consumers millions in treatment costs.

“It is estimated that banning indoor tanning for minors younger than 18 years old would prevent 61,829 melanomas and 6,735 melanoma deaths and save $342.9 million in treatment costs,” the researchers said.

The full study has been published in JAMA Dermatology.

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