Bill banning minors from tanning beds clears Utah House after earlier defeat

A proposed ban on tanning bed use by teens made a resurgence in the Utah Legislature on Thursday, even as a chorus of lawmakers warned against enacting nanny-state restrictions.

Rep. Brad Daw’s proposal, HB34, failed by a 33-42 vote when it first appeared on the House floor the opening day of session, but lawmakers reconsidered their decision the following day and put the legislation back on their agenda. The bill has been idling on the House to-do list over the past couple weeks, as Daw and advocates tried to convert enough lawmakers to win its passage through the House.

On Thursday, after a vigorous debate over parental rights, the bill cleared the House by a 41-31 vote and moved to the Senate for consideration.

“The big issue has been parental rights, and I have to ask this question: The right to do what?” Daw, R-Orem, asked his fellow lawmakers. “Put your kid in the ground in five years? See them horribly disfigured?”

Utah has the nation’s highest melanoma rates, and the Skin Cancer Foundation reports that one tanning bed session before age 35 can lead to a 75% increased risk of developing the life-threatening condition. A couple legislators spoke from personal experience as skin cancer survivors.

“I know how damaging that particular cancer can be,” Rep. Jon Hawkins, R-Pleasant Grove, said. “And I would hate for parents to realize several years down the road that they could’ve protected their children from this harmful activity.”

But other lawmakers argued the bill was a form of overreach and wondered if it starts the state down a slippery slope: Should Utah restrict parents from allowing their children to sunbathe? What about sugar intake, given the dangers of diabetes?

“If we passed this bill, are we then going to send around some sun patrol? And reprimand or chastise or fine or punish in some way parents who allow their children to lay out by their pool?” asked Rep. Tim Quinn, R-Heber City, who voted against the legislation.

Opponents of the bill said the state should enforce the laws currently in place, which prohibit tanning bed establishments from admitting a minor without a physician’s written order or unless the teen’s parent or guardian shows up and gives permission.