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More Tanning Salons Than McDonald's: Why The Tanning Bed Bill Is Back

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Credit flsenate.gov
Sen. Eleanor Sobel has tried repeatedly to get a bill passed banning minors from using tanning devices. She says it's a public health issue.

The World Health Organization lists tanning beds among the most dangerous forms of cancer-causing radiation.

It turns out the Sunshine State is home to more tanning salons than McDonald’s restaurants. That’s what University of Miami researchers found in their study of skin cancer cases in Florida.

The research is bolstering the case for legislation in Tallahasseethat would prohibit any minor from using a tanning device.

Sen. Eleanor Sobel, D-Hollywood, has tried several times to get the bill passed.

Why is she bringing it back? She cited the Miami study that found the largest users of tanning beds are between 16 and 29 years old. Researchers also say Florida is among the top states for occurrences of melanoma – the deadliest form of skin cancer.  

WLRN: You tried to get this bill passed previously, but it died in committee. Why are you trying again?

Sobel: Because I believe it’s a really, really important bill and that we must fix the problem we currently have in Florida where there’s really no minimum age [for tanning] if you have parental consent. In light of the current scientific findings, tanning machines are deadly.

WLRN: Were you surprised by the UM study?

Sobel: I was really shocked to find out we had more tanning beds than we do McDonald's or CVS. You know, tan is looking good for a lot of people, looking healthy.

However, we all know where they can get a suntan for free, and that’s outside. The sun is dangerous as well, but you can take protections. The tanning beds – that goes very deep. They have ultraviolet rays that penetrate and lead to the deadliest form of cancer, which is melanoma.

WLRN: Were you a sun worshiper growing up?

Sobel: Oh yeah, but I grew up in Brooklyn. The sun wasn’t as strong as it is in Florida. We didn’t have [tanning] sprays at the time. Sprays are much better; makeup is much better. The scientific evidence has shown that these tanning beds are deadly and dangerous.

WLRN: What do you think has been the problem in past attempts to get this bill passed?

Sobel: I think we have a powerful tanning industry that has a lot of money, and they’ve always shown up at the committee [meetings] arguing against the bill.

Then there is the argument of personal responsibility. The argument has some validity to it. However, kids were smoking cigarettes – where were the parents? You know, until we made cigarettes a public health issue, we didn’t stop the smoking even though it was personal responsibility. At some point, people who have the evidence and are trying to help parents need to step in and make a difference and save lives.

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