City Council Committee Approves Plan to Bar Teens from Tanning Beds

Indoor tanning increases skin cancer risk 69 percent, study shows

By Kim Vatis
|  Wednesday, May 30, 2012  |  Updated 8:27 PM CDT
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The City Council's License Committee on Wednesday heard from self-proclaimed tanning

The City Council's License Committee on Wednesday heard from self-proclaimed tanning "addicts" and skin cancer survivors who pleaded for more regulation. Kim Vatis reports.

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The City Council License committee on Wednesday unanimously backed a proposal to ban tanning for minors in the city.

Former tanning enthusiasts testified in support of the proposed legislation. One former self-described tanning addict started the practice at age 15. She received a cancer diagnosis at age 20.

"Baked myself," said Katrina Polansky. "I'd say for about 20 minutes at a time, about five times a week. I had a gut feeling to go get checked, and sure enough, I had melanoma."

Ald. Debra Silverstein (50th), who introduced the proposal, baked in the sun as a teen herself, but regrets it now.

"If I had known then what I know now about the harmful rays of the sun," she said, "I never would have done that."

A Yale University study released in December 2011 showed the use of a tanning bed increases one's risk of skin cancer by 69 percent.

Despite that risk, a number of teens are still use tanning beds. More than eight percent of 14-year-old girls hit a tanning bed, according to a May 2011 study published by the American Journal of Public Health. The rates of use increase with age, the report said, with nearly 14 percent of 15-year-olds and nearly 21 percent of 16-year-olds soaking up artificial rays. By age 17, more than 26 percent of girls tan indoors, the study showed.

Silverstein said she wants to ban the practice, regardless of whether parents approve. That's a part of the proposal Halsted Street Beach owner Matthew Turner does not like.

"I don't think it's the city's place to start telling parents what to do with their children," he said, adding that teens might find ways to circumvent the proposed law.

"They got fake IDs for drinking," he said.  "You don't think they're going to get fake IDs for tanning?"

Silverstein said the proposal is about more than tanning.

"We are trying to save lives, and this is one step in order to do that," she said.

Bronzers and spray-on tans would not be covered by Silverstein's proposal. Nor would tanning devices "in private residences."

Violators would face fines ranging from $100 to $250 for each offense.

If Chicago passes such a ban, it would be similar to statewide bans taken in California and Vermont, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

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