Measure banning teenage tanning salon use in New Jersey has some small business owners seeing red 2020

A bill in the state Assembly could change the color of the tanning industry — and new Jersey teenagers — as legislators push to keep minors from baking in what research has shown are cancer-causing beds and booths.

The bill, which cleared the state Senate last month, would prohibit all teens under the age of 18 — even with parental consent — from using indoor tanning facilities.

Although medical research has persuaded lawmakers to support the bill that could save teens from sun damage and skin cancers, small business owners of tanning salons worry the health-conscious measure could cripple their companies.

“I had a little trepidation about how it would affect small business,” said Sen. Loretta Weinberg (D-37, Bergen County), who sponsored the bill along with Sen. Robert Singer (R-30, Ocean County). “I was persuaded by the medical information that was presented to me by dermatologists and the American Cancer Society which were both big lobbyists for this.”

There is no such thing as safe tanning, no matter if it’s on the beach in the sun or inside under ultraviolet lights, according to Dr. Lori Feldman-Winter, an adolescent medicine physician.

Tanning booths, as much as the sun, pose skin cancer risks, despite being regulated and monitored indoor, the doctor said.

“no one is really risk-free,” said Feldman-Winter, division head of adolescent medicine at Cooper University Hospital in Camden. “there is no question that we have seen a dramatic rise in the prevalence of deadly forms of skin cancer, particularly in young people, where we used to not see deadly forms of skins cancer.”

During a hearing on the bill, Weinberg said the statistics on melanoma, particularly among teenage girls who use indoor tanning, stacked the deck against the practice.

According to Feldman-Winter, doctors no longer suggest patients with low vitamin D expose themselves to the sun to make up for the deficiency.

“we absolutely recommend against getting your dose in that method,” said Feldman-Winter, who, never before in her career, has seen an epidemic of skin cancer on this scale.

Skin cancer is no longer an issue that teens can think won’t affect them until they’re older, the doctor said.

“there are kids in middle school that get skin cancer; there are kids in elementary school that get skin cancer. It’s not a disease any longer of people in the second and third decade of life,” Feldman-Winter said. “I think if parents knew this, they would want to be more proactive and be involved in these decisions.”

Feldman thinks the epidemic can be chalked up to the environment’s already toxic dose of UV rays during the day. Indoor tanning adds another opportunity to expose the skin to ultraviolet light.

“there are a lot of similarities with the tobacco industry,” said Feldman-Winter. “Girls in particular think they need to get tan for certain events or certain times of the year. I think some of this is marketing.”

Gloucester County businesswoman Deb Stief — owner of Paradise Cover tanning salons in Mantua and Washington townships — said she never got into the tanning salon business to target teens.

“When we opened our doors in 2005, we did it with the intention of teen awareness because we knew a lot of teens were tanning and we had teenagers that were tanning,” said Stief. “we were very well versed in all the precautions that should be taken with the eyewear and lotions.”

In fact, Stief said her family opened the shops to give those who wanted to tan a place that was properly sanitized after every session.

The law, as it stands, allows teens as young as 14 to tan with a parent’s permission. Stief’s pair of salons places restrictions on teens 15- to 17-years-old. their parents must accompany them to the salon, show valid identification, and sign a waiver. the children are then restricted on how long they can tan in the booths, she said.

“we wrack our brains trying to do it the right way,” Stief said.

Although some of Paradise Cove’s clients are teenagers, the salon’s owner said many people who tan there hit the booths to tackle seasonal affective disorder, a type of major depression that is often treated with light therapy.

“I feel as though in a prescribed amount, you’re not over-exposing … I believe the cancer studies will show it’s overexposure to the sun,” said Stief, who believes some studies were performed on very fair-skinned subjects.

Other tanning salons see clients looking to battle acne or other skin conditions like eczema.

“I’m not sure how it (the bill) is going to affect us,” said Stief, who does not consider her salon as a place specifically for teens.

She does think a lot of salons will be affected by the bill if it becomes law.

And that’s what leaves Williamstown business owner Denise Sottosanti so upset. as the new owner of Capri Tans and Spa, Sottosanti thinks business owners were not considered when the bill was crafted.

“I’m going to definitely be affected,” said Sottosanti, who bought the 10-bed business more than a year ago. “I’m a local place. If they take this from me, I’m going to have to close my doors.”

Already, there is a 10-percent excise tax on tanning salons, plus the seven-percent sales tax that must be paid to the state.

During high school prom season, Capri Tans sees a major boost in business, mostly due to high school girls working on the glow to match their evening gowns. Before the 14- to 17-year-olds strip down and climb onto the tanning beds, their parents must make the trek to the Williamstown Salon from across town and sometimes Franklin Township.

Between the end of March and the beginning of June, Sottosanti estimated that 85 percent of her clients are teenagers.

“That’s my carry over, and it has to carry me to September and October, until people start coming back,” she said. “It’s going to pick up in the winter months again, but not like I get at prom time … I’m very upset over it, and I’ve been losing sleep over it.”

Sen. Weinberg said small businesses were considered by the legislature. But the medical facts were overwhelming, she said.

“I’m not happy at the prospect of hurting small business. I wouldn’t be at the prospect of hurting big business, but they can absorb it more,” Weinberg said. “I was persuaded by the medical testimony.”

If indoor tanning was not a serious problem, Weinberg thinks the American Cancer Society and dermatologists would not campaigning against the practice.

“in order to help the small businesses somewhat, we did allow them to continue to do something called spray tanning,” Weinberg said. “that will continue to be their business. anybody over 18 can continue using them.”

Sottosanti said her store does offer other services. But, as a mother of college-age children, she think parents should be able to make the decision for their families.

“why can’t they reinstate parental consent? I want your mother to say it’s OK,” said Sottosanti, whose father never went in the sun without a hat, but was diagnosed with skin cancer on his face. “It’s an informed choice you make.”

The bill passed the state Senate in a 22 to 7 vote in June. Weinberg, the bill’s co-sponsor Singer, Sen. Fred Madden (D-4, Washington Township) and Senate President Stephen M. Sweeney (D-3, West Deptford) voted ‘yes’ to advance the bill to the Assembly.

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