Loose Lips

Cheh Bill Would Ban Teenagers From Using Tanning Beds

shutterstock_139609766There soon might be fewer teenage John Boehner look-a-likes walking around the District, thanks to legislation proposed by Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh that would ban all minors from using tanning beds.

The bill, introduced on Tuesday, would raise the minimum age for tanning beds from 14 to 18. Under the District's current law, teenagers older than 14 can use tanning beds with parental consent.

But according to Cheh, the legislation is necessary to protect teenagers from themselves. "Even with efforts to inform minors of these risks, studies have shown that greater knowledge of the dangers of tanning does not change behavior," she says in a press release. "That is why it is imperative we pass legislation banning this practice—a practice that can prove fatal.”

Cheh didn't respond to a request for comment about the bill. But tanning industry lobbyist and Vince Gray frat bro Bruce Bereano thinks the parental consent requirement is enough. “If a parent, after discussing with their child, wants to allow for tanning, then let it be,” he says. “What are we being a nanny state for?”

Bereano, who works for the Indoor Tanning Association representing D.C. salons, contested Cheh's claim that use of tanning beds can have "life-threatening health effects."

“There is no conclusive, reliable proof that minors using tanning beds is causing melanoma,” he says.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention disagree. According to an article on skin cancer, the risk of melanoma is 59 percent higher for people who begin tanning younger than 35—not quite the 75 percent figure cited in Cheh's press release, but still pretty high.

Faced with those figures, Bereano pivoted.

"The bill is not going to solve any problems because you could go online right now and buy your own tanning bed for $300 or $1,000,” says Bereano. (It’s worth noting that the cheapest tanning bed I could find online was $1,299, while most were around $2,000.)

Regardless of price, Bereano says that professional tanning salons also provide safety measures that would be lost if teens started tanning at home. “These are very professional people they time you so you can only tan for a certain period of time, they test you to make sure your skin allows for tanning, and they make sure things are not done in excess,” he says. “All [the bill] is going to do is hurt businesses in the District of Columbia unnecessarily when the proper safeguards are already in place.”

A Council hearing hasn't been set for the legislation, but Bereano expects he'll be there when it happens.

"Hopefully, we’re going to have rational minds prevail," Bereano says.

Update, 3:00 p.m.: Though the CDC states that melanoma risk is 59 percent higher for tanners under 35, Cheh's legislative director Andrew Newman pointed me to a May 2010 Food and Drug Administration report on melanoma that put that number at 75 percent. Neither stat is appealing.

 Tanning bed photo by Shutterstock


  • DCShadyBoots

    Cheh! Mind your own business honey.

  • Retiredcop70

    Another crazy proposed bill introduced by Mary Cheh, this woman displayed just the reason why Government should stay out of our personal lives. Next she'll ontroduce a bill to ban the sun from shining on 14 year olds if they go outside or to the beach. The bill the she and Wells introduced last month issuing fines and points to drivers who fail to yield to bike riders or hit a bike rider. Another one sided law as DC has become a Nanny State or The inmates have taken over the asylum.

  • Jimmy

    Just another politician jumping on the bandwagon trying to "save the children" and look great in the public eye all without doing any personal research. Let parents decide if they want their teen to use a tanning bed. Enough of the nanny state garbage. Indoor tanning is not the evil it is made out to be. Learn more here: http://tanresponsibly.com/

  • Lim Morris

    Another knee jerk reaction from Cheh's office. Her policy on any unfounded, main stream piece that claims to impact public health or the environment - LET'S BAN IT. I recall when she wanted to ban "toxic" flea collars for dogs and cats.

  • drez

    White people's problems.

  • truth hurts

    If it's true that Bruce Bereano "works as a lawyer for the Indoor Tanning Association representing D.C. salons", someone should notify MPD. He was disbarred in MD and DC years ago, and the unauthorized practice of law is a crime.

    With respect to Cheh's proposed legislation, my initial reaction was similar to other commentators. Then I thought: If we ban minors from buying cigarettes because research links smoking to cancer, why should we allow minors to use indoor tanning beds when research links early tanning to increased risk of cancer? We don't let 14 year old kids buy cigarettes or alcohol just because their parents say it's OK. Why should the use of indoor tanning beds be treated differently? Don't know the answers, but it got me thinking.

  • drez

    Agree, TH.

  • Tone Roman

    OK, TH we get where you are trying to go. Tobacco and alcohol are not good for kids so we control it independent of parents opinions. But tanning? What's next, banning plastic pacifiers for babies, Q-tips because we might inhale cotton fibers? Should we require a 100 foot buffer zone at gas stations to protect children from petroleum vapors? I think the point here is that M. Cheh has a "ban" mentality and overreacts to stories in the national press. She would be wiser and more beneficial to the District if she were to do more research and wait for a consensus on these issues - rather than being the first adopter, which often makes her, and us, look silly. Personally I think that she, unlike most of her Council colleagues, has been around long out to play out her usefulness. It's maybe time for her to pass the baton.

  • truth hurts

    I don't disagree, for the most part, with your characterization of Cheh. I'm simply looking at the specific issue at hand: whether the use of tanning beds by minors presents a serious risk of skin cancer, which is often deadly. I don't know the answer, but I'm willing to listen.

  • Corky

    When are we going to ban Mary Cheh? She is the biggest threat to civil liberties and individual freedom in city government. Enough of this overbearing, intrusive government!! As much a threat as the Tea Party is on the federal level, people like Mary Cheh in local governments present the greatest threat to our individual rights. It doesn't matter that she's a liberal. That just makes her a liberal fascist.

  • noodlez



  • Tim

    An alternative is just tax the salons 25% and use funds to educate to skin cancer prevention.

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  • Blevins

    I believe should read tanning industry lobbyist, disbarred lawyer, Gray frat bro and convicted felon Bruce Bereano...

    Vince sure hangs out with a lot of crooks.

  • http://www.tanninglotiondepot.com/ Lucretia Swain

    This legislation was made due to recent studies that have been conducted the predisposes teens to tanning dependence or addiction. The cases of skin cancers are increasing so the government is making a move. Well, if that is the case, then perhaps another legislation should be made to regulate or prevent the selling of tanning beds.

  • Sally

    This issue should be controlled by the parents of the teenager and not Mary Cheh creating another useless law. Stop with the control on personal decisions and focus on issues that affect the city as a whole.

  • j robert

    the idea that parents should decide whether their kids can or cannot tan is understandable, but the simple fact is that parents can't tell their kid to stop having skin cancer later in life.

    Its a preventive public health policy, and the commenters here that brought up the similarities with smoking bans for minors are spot on. It won't cause cancer today or tomorrow, but it will absolutely lead to an increased risk down the road.

    For non-believers, hop on google and search for skin cancer survivor stories. when you come across younger persons (those under 35 -- the formerly atypical skin cancer demographic), you'll hear similar things, like "i thought i was too young to get cancer"

  • http://tanrepublic.com/locations/portland-tanningburnside tanning lotion

    I think this should be in the limitation process when using this. You don't need to ban this..It depends on the people knowing its worth. You may also go to Portland’s most desirable tanning salon at 2160 West Burnside Portland OR 97210 or just call this phone number 503.926.8622 and we’re looking forward to serving you and doing everything we can to help you achieve your deepest, darkest tan.