A bill designed to keep minors away from indoor tanning beds drew strong support Thursday from Nebraska lawmakers who pitched it as a way to prevent skin cancer, but some senators said it could lead to unintended consequences.
The proposal would make Nebraska one of 15 states that prohibit anyone younger than 18 years old from using the beds.
Sen. Anna Wishart of Lincoln said the bill will protect youths who do not fully understand the consequences tanning can have on their long-term health. She compared it with laws that restrict minors from purchasing cigarettes or alcohol.
A Nebraska law passed in 2014 allows children under 16 to use beds at a tanning facility with parental consent. Initial versions of the law aimed to restrict access entirely for anyone under 16, but a compromise was reached to help the bill pass.
Tanning rates for Nebraska teens are higher than the nationwide average. The 2015 Nebraska Youth Risk Behavior Survey found that 22 percent of high school seniors in the state report using indoor tanning equipment within the last year, compared with 16 percent nationwide.
Supporters pointed to studies that link indoor tanning to cancer and noted not all parents know enough about UV rays to make informed decisions.
"Those mistakes that parents who don't have the will, or don't have enough time to investigate, or don't have enough time to become educated about the UV rays make it so that it's dangerous for our children in Nebraska," said Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks of Lincoln.
Sen. Rick Kolowski of Omaha said his experience as a high school principal led him to support the bill. He said he saw teens tan to conform to peer pressure to fit in and look good, which led to significant health issues later.
Wishart said teens could still get spray tans, which is the only part of the tanning industry that is continuously growing.
Opponents to the bill said it would hurt tanning facility businesses. They said it would be ineffective and force teens to seek alternative ways to use indoor tanning, such as home beds, while restricting parental rights.
Sen. Bob Krist of Omaha said some tanning facilities aren't enforcing the current state requirements. Changing how the current law is enforced on tanning salons would be more effective and ensure teens have access to safe, clean equipment, he said.
Tanning facilities in Nebraska currently face no licensing requirements or regulations.
Lawmakers adjourned for the day before voting on the measure. Wishart said she will consider compromises on the bill, but expects to see it on the floor again.