Tanning Beds Face New Taxes and Restrictions

By Liz Szabo, USA TODAY

Growing concerns about the dangers of indoor tanning beds are leading to new taxes - and possibly new restrictions - designed to curb the practice among young people.

A Food and Drug Administration advisory panel recommended Thursday that the agency consider actions such as requiring that teenagers get parental consent before using a tanning bed or even banning the use of tanning beds among teens. The advisers also recommended reclassifying tanning lamps from Class I medical devices - a category that includes tongue depressors and elastic bandages - to a Class II or Class III device, which would permit the agency to impose greater restrictions.

TANNING BEDS: Listed among top cancer risks

YOUR HEALTH: Even brief intense sun exposure can raise cancer risk

About 35% of 17-year-old girls use tanning machines, an FDA report says. People under 30 who use tanning machines increase their risk of skin cancer by 75%, according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer, which is affiliated with the World Health Organization. That agency last July listed ultraviolet radiation-emitting beds as "carcinogenic to humans," its highest category of cancer risk.

The melanoma rate among young women nearly tripled from 1973 to 2004, a National Cancer Institute study showed.

In a statement, the Indoor Tanning Association described the panel's recommendations as "excessive" and added, "It is our sincere hope that the FDA will fully explore this issue and base any decision on sound science."

Because teens have less spending money than adults, a new 10% tax on indoor tanning - included in the health reform bill signed last week by President Obama - may make some young people think twice about tanning, says dermatologist Bruce Katz, a spokesman for the Skin Cancer Foundation and director of the Juva Skin and Laser Center in New York. The tax, scheduled to take effect July 1, is expected to raise $2.7 billion over 10 years to help offset the costs of the bill, Katz says. "We'd like to see tanning beds banned completely, but this is a good start," Katz says.

The Federal Trade Commission also has been cracking down on the marketing of indoor tanning. In January, the agency charged the Indoor Tanning Association with making false health and safety claims in its ads. The association agreed to pull the disputed ads.