The N.C. Senate voted 48-2 Wednesday afternoon to ban anyone under 18 from using a tanning bed.
Supporters say the change is needed to protect children's health. The bill heads next to Gov. Pat McCrory, and if it becomes law, North Carolina would join 11 other states and the District of Columbia in the indoor tanning ban.
The two opposing votes Wednesday came from the chamber’s two top Republicans, Senate leader Phil Berger and Rules Chairman Tom Apodaca.
“We do believe it’s a parent’s right to choose what their children do,” Apodaca said, adding that he still doesn’t think kids should use tanning beds.
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Apodaca’s remarks came after the vote, after the family of Rep. Jim Fulghum – who sought the legislation and died last year – had left the room. “I didn’t want to talk while they were here,” Apodaca said.
Despite the opposition, Berger’s staff issued a news release highlighting the vote. The email included praise from Fulghum’s wife, Mary Susan Fulghum.
“My husband supported this bill because he understood the devastating impact that skin cancer is having on young people – especially young women,” she said. “And as a health care professional, he knew that the most cost-effective health care is prevention.”
The bill’s Senate co-sponsor, Republican Sen. Tommy Tucker of Union County, said it’s common for teenage girls to use tanning beds to prepare for prom or a beach trip.
“They would all come out looking like a lobster, burned beyond belief,” he said. “I did not have any idea that a tanning bulb was 14 times more damaging than a ray of sunlight.”
Current state law allows those under 18 to use tanning beds only with parental consent. And children under the age of 13 can’t use tanning beds unless a doctor says it is needed for a medical reason.
Research from the International Agency for Research on Cancer has compared the cancer-causing effects from indoor tanning beds with asbestos exposure and tobacco use.
The ban is backed by a number of medical groups, including the N.C. Dermatology Association, N.C. Medical Society and N.C. Pediatric Society.
“In 2013, 20 percent of high school girls reported using an indoor tanning device in the past 12 months, with rates increasing up to 27 percent for girls who were in the senior class,” said Christine Weason of The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network. “We can’t allow our youth to continue to put themselves at risk in this manner.”
Also at the legislature
In other action Wednesday at the N.C. General Assembly:
▪ The House voted 113-1 to require every vehicle on the road to have two working brake lights. The only opposing vote came from Democratic Rep. Joe Sam Queen of Haywood County, who argued that a second brake light is often unnecessary.
▪ The Senate voted unanimously to approve the use of “biosimilars,” a form of cheaper substitutes for costly medications. “This is very consumer friendly,” said the bill’s sponsor, Republican Sen. Tom Apodaca of Hendersonville.
▪ The House voted 106-7 to require permits and fees for businesses offering “beach bingo” games.