New Jersey law could spur action on Michigan tanning bed rules

The new bill would ban children under 17 from using commercial tanning beds

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New Jersey Governor Chris Christie signed a bill into law on Monday banning children under 17 from using commercial tanning beds, in his state and so will Michigan, if some  lawmakers and a coalition of health groups get their way.

The New Jersey law stemmed from a case that made national headlines.

Patricia Krentcil of Nutley, New Jersey, was arrested in April 2012 after her daughter showed up at school with a sunburn and officials accused her of taking the child into a tanning booth.

Krentcil, who became known in tabloid stories as the "Tan Mom," testified that her own chocolate-brown hue came from many hours spent under the intense ultraviolet light of a tanning bed or out in the sun soaking up rays.

She denied exposing her daughter to a tanning session, and a grand jury opted not to indict her on charges of endangering the welfare of a child.

In Michigan, House Bills 4404 and 4405,introduced by state Representative Jim Townsend, aim to protect teens and children from the increased risk of cancer linked to tanning beds.

Physicians with the Michigan State Medical Society joined young cancer patients and advocates in asking the state to approve the package of bills.

"Indoor tanning has been directly linked with a dramatically increased risk of skin cancers especially for girls who start tanning at a young age," said Dr .Kay Watnick, an Oakland County dermatologist supporting the ban."Using a tanning bed is particularly dangerous for younger users. We have a responsibility to protect our children and we encourage lawmakers to pass these potentially life-saving reforms as soon as possible

."Read: Mom put 5-year-old in tanning bed

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, people who tan indoors at a young age, have a 75 percent higher risk of being diagnosed with melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer.

Melanoma is the number one cancer killer of young women nationwide. Indoor tanning has also been directly linked with ocular melanoma, or cancer of the eye.

"We cannot turn a blind eye while our daughters and sons, nieces and nephews, and friends are put at such a terrifying risk of cancer," said Representative Townsend, sponsor of the bills. "The CDC, Michigan physicians and cancer patients themselves have sounded the alarm about the deadly risks of indoor tanning.  It is time we listen and put the lives of our young people first."

Supports of the ban say 13 percent of high school students admit to using indoor tanning facilities and 32 percent of girls in grade 12 use tanning beds regularly.

MORE: Debunking 5 common sunscreen myths.

Anne Goulet was diagnosed with melanoma in August 2010. She began tanning indoors when she was a freshman in high school and tanned regularly until college. 

"If I hadn't started tanning as a teenager I likely never would have gotten cancer," said Goulet. "I hope now that my story can help girls across the state understand the risks of indoor tanning.  I hope the legislature will listen, too, and pass these bills soon to help save lives."

In addition to the Michigan State Medical Society, the bills are supported by the Michigan Dermatological Society and the American Cancer Society Action Network.

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