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Maine Lawmakers Determine Fate of Teen Tanning Bed Ban
04/03/2013   Reported By: Patty B. Wight

The Maine Senate today joined the House in passing a bill that would prohibit teens 18 and younger from indoor tanning facilities. As Patty Wight reports, central to the debate was whether protecting teens makes good public policy or represents government overreach.

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Maine Lawmakers Determine Fate of Teen Tanning Bed
Originally Aired: 4/3/2013 5:30 PM

The sponsor of the bill, Democrat Geoff Gratwick of Penobscot, told lawmakers they had a powerful opportunity to prevent death. As a physician, he says the health consequences of using tanning beds are something he's familiar with.

"If you have a choice of cancers you want to get, I recommend you not get pancreatic cancer, and malignant melanoma," Gratwick said.

Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer, and Gratwick says it's usually caused by UV sunlight and tanning beds.

Democrat Margaret Craven took to the Senate floor to lay out other statistics: Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the U.S. The International Agency for Research on Cancer lists tanning beds as one of the most dangerous forms of cancer-causing radiation. The agency also says using a tanning bed before age 35 increases the risk of developing melanoma by 75 percent.

Given that 16 percent of Maine high school students report using indoor tanning devices, Craven says their use is a public health issue.

"Cancer and illnesses impact all of us. Whether you have private insurance, whether you have MaineCare, we all pay a price in the end," she said.

While science spells out the risks of skin cancer, the bill - called "An Act to Reduce Youth Cancer Risk," brought out a more philosophical debate among senators. Just who should have the authority, asked Republican Roger Katz, to dictate what children can or can't do? He suggested a different name for the bill.

"It should be the 'Parents Who Are Not Capable of Raising Their Children Act of 2013,'" he said.

Katz says according to this bill, it doesn't take a village to raise children. It takes the government. He calls the bill another step down the slippery slope of ceding parental authority.

"I don't look at this as a slippery slope, I look at this as an evolution," said Democratic Sen. Anne Haskell, of Cumberland County. "I think that we ought to carefully and sparingly apply this very important restriction, as we did on cigarettes, and as we did on wine coolers."

Other lawmakers pointed out Maine laws that require seat belts and bicycle helmets, and restrictions imposed last year on teens earning their drivers' licenses.

Maine isn't the only state having this debate. A number of other states are considering similar legislation, and three have already enacted laws - California, Vermont, and as of Monday, New Jersey Republican Governor Chris Christie signed a bill banning those under age 18 from using commercial tanning beds.

In the Maine Senate, it took 40 minutes of debate, then lawmakers cast their votes. Thirty seconds later, the results were in. Nineteen for the bill, 16 against. "The motion to enact LD 272 prevails," the clerk announced.

The bill now heads to the desk of Gov. Paul LePage for his signature. Supporters hope it will ultimately take a chunk out of the approximately 400 Mainers who are diagnosed with melanoma each year.


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