Montana legislators seek to limit or end use of tanning beds for those under age 18

Associated Press

Two Montana lawmakers are attempting to limit or deny access to tanning beds for those under 18.

Sen. Roger Webb, R-Billings, introduced Senate Bill 125 Monday in the House Public Health, Welfare and Safety Committee. Webb's bill would ban anyone under the age of 18 from using tanning devices.

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Rep. Ellie Hill, D-Missoula, seeks to require parental consent before minors may use tanning beds in House Bill 130, which she introduced in the House Judiciary Committee last week.

Under HB 130, a signed consent form would allow a minor to tan up to 12 times in one year and require the use of protective eyewear. The form would expire one year after the signature date.

On Tuesday, Webb said he was confident he had secured the four votes needed to pass out of committee the ban on under-18 tanning, and he was lobbying for a fifth. Hill said she, too, believed Webb's ban could pass out of the Senate committee and possibly the Senate as a whole. But should it reach the House, Hill said, Webb's ban would be amended to include her parental consent parameter.

"I think that the majority of legislators in Montana, regardless of their party or politics, tend to lean on a philosophy that parents have a right to raise their children in a way they see fit," Hill said.

Hill's bill is basically identical to tanning regulations proposed in 2013 and 2009, according to documents electronically filed in Montana Legislature archives.

In 2013 as well as this session, legislators cited individual liberty in their opposition to any restrictions on minors' access to tanning, Webb and Hill said.

For that reason, Hill said, the best chance for tanning regulations to become law would be a compromise between an all-out ban and unrestricted access.

"I want to see some legislative action on this instead of loggerheads," Hill said. "And I think that's the consensus."

Webb compared parental consent for youth tanning to parental consent for underage drinking or smoking. In all cases, he said, consent doesn't make right the action.

"I'm the first one to say, 'I don't like Uncle Sam telling me what to do,' but it is what it is," Webb said.

The two bills state nearly identical concerns regarding the increased risk of skin cancer to people who use tanning beds at a young age.

Hill said the House Judiciary Committee will vote on HB 130 Wednesday morning.