Children younger than 18 would be banned from using tanning beds in Mississippi under a measure passed Wednesday by the state Senate.
However, sponsors of Senate Bill 2847, which is going to the House for more debate, said they might consider watering down the outright ban to allow some older teens to use tanning beds.
Right now, children younger than 14 can use tanning beds in Mississippi if their parents are present, while those older than 14 but younger than 18 can use tanning beds with written permission from their parents.
“Tanning causes cancer and we want to protect our youngest ones,” said state Sen. Brice Wiggins, a Pascagoula Republican. He noted the state had banned smoking and drinking by juveniles.
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Anti-cancer advocates say ultraviolet rays in tanning beds are particularly harmful to teenagers because their skin is still developing. Jeff Fehlis, the executive vice president of the American Cancer Society, has estimated that 690 people in Mississippi will be diagnosed this year with melanoma. The District of Columbia and 17 states, including Louisiana and Texas, have already enacted such a ban, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. This is the fourth year that the American Cancer Society’s lobbying group, Cancer Action Network, has pushed for a ban in Mississippi.
The measure encountered substantial opposition from lawmakers who said the state shouldn’t interfere in decisions made by parents for their children or that the bill could hurt small businesses.
“Individuals should be allowed to make even bad decisions, if they so choose, because that’s what freedom’s about,” said Sen. Michael Watson, a Hurley Republican.
Republican Sen. Angela Hill of Picayune said that the bill went against principles of her party including parents’ rights and supporting small business.
“This is an anti-business vote,” Hill said.
Wiggins said a provision that has been inserted in the bill would force it to return to the Senate for more debate. He said he was open to changes. Republican Sen. Sally Doty of Brookhaven said she was supporting the bill, but wants to allow older teens the chance to use tanning beds, saying her own daughter had gone behind her back to use a tanning bed in a home.
“So when you’re in your junior or senior year in high school, you can get that little hit for your prom dress,” Doty said.