UNC students living in off-campus apartments with tanning beds will be able to continue tanning under the restrictions set by owners. Chapel Hill staff have advised the Town Council not to regulate the practice, and the Council is not scheduled to discuss the issue again.
UNC student Alana Zeitany in January asked the council to prohibit apartment complexes from allowing residents to use tanning beds for free with no regulations. While state laws restrict the use of tanning beds, Zeitany said some complexes were not enforcing them.
Ralph Karpinos, the town attorney, says the Town Council lacks the authority to regulate tanning beds. However, applicants for new special-use permits for apartment complexes that will offer tanning beds will be required to follow all state laws regarding them. This restriction cannot be added to current special-use permits.
In a March 13 email to the Town Council, Town Manager Roger Stancil said, “When approving future special use permits, we believe that the Council can make a public purpose finding that the health, safety, and general welfare of the community is served by stipulations that address the operation of tanning beds.”
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Stancil attached an email from the general manager of The Warehouse, a West Rosemary Street apartment complex, in which manager Nicole Harris said, “The Warehouse is compliant with all NC rules and regulations with regard to tanning.”
Timna Understein, who runs the melanoma education organization Respect the Rays, said she was not surprised to hear the town would not be regulating off-campus apartments’ tannng beds.
“I was already aware that tanning devices are regulated by the state,” she said. “It is not a simple matter.”
She does not think the new language in special-use permits will be effective. “I do not see this ... helping to lessen the use of tanning beds in student apartment communities,” she said. “It changes nothing.”
The Jim Fulghum Teen Skin Cancer Prevention Act, named after late N.C. Rep. Jim Fulghum, is currently in committees in both the state House and Senate. The bill would require that tanning bed users sign a statement acknowledging the risks of ultraviolet radiation exposure. It also would prohibit minors from using tanning beds.
The Senate bill was referred to the Committee on Health Care on March 11, and the House bill was referred to the Committee on Regulatory Reform on March 16.
Understein said that tanning bills have been introduced to the General Assembly for the past three years and have not yet made it through the Senate.
“The Jim Fulghum Teen Skin Cancer Prevention Act ... will be the first of its kind,” she said. “However, even if or when that bill passes, that will still not have an effect on the college off-campus housing issue, because most of that population is over 18.”
Dr. Seth Noar, a researcher at the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, said: “By a large margin, young white women – adolescents and young adults – are the most likely to tan indoors. For example, national data show that nearly one out of three young women aged 18 to 21 have tanned indoors in the past 12 months. The numbers are much smaller for men, other races, and other age groups.”
He said that tanning indoors before the age of 35 greatly increases one’s risk of getting skin cancer. Indoor tanning can cause all three types of skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and the most deadly form, melanoma, he added.
Understein said for now “the way to make change in regards to college tanning behaviors would be in the form of educating, raising awareness, and reaching out directly to the companies that manage these apartment complexes.”
Did you know?
▪ In 2009, the World Health Organization classified indoor tanning devices as Class I human carcinogens on the basis of strong evidence linking indoor tanning to increased risk of skin cancer.
▪ In 2011, California prohibited indoor tanning for anybody younger than 18. Since then, Vermont, Nevada, Oregon, Texas, Illinois, Washington, Minnesota, Louisiana, and Hawaii have also adopted prohibitions on indoor tanning for minors younger than18.
▪ The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Prevent Skin Cancer calls on partners in prevention from various sectors across the nation to address skin cancer as a major public health problem.