DENVER — An unlikely partnership has helped block recent attempts to limit tanning bed use by Colorado teens, but supporters this year hope a new proposal can break the alliance of skin cancer survivors and the indoor tanning industry.
A House bill up for its first hearing next month would ban people younger than 18 from using tanning beds in Colorado without a doctor's prescription. The measure goes further than previous attempts, which sought to require parental permission.
Supporters say the tougher legislation should secure the endorsement of health advocates who have opposed limiting efforts over the last two years, saying they couldn't support anything short of an outright ban.
It's unclear how much opposition there would be to the new proposal, but industry lobbyists have said in previous years such measures are unnecessary since most shops already limit or ban tanning by minors. The national Indoor Tanning Association didn't immediately return a call for comment.
Across the nation, 30 other states limit or ban tanning bed use by people younger than 18. Supporters say they're hopeful this is the year Colorado joins that list.
"The time is now. Things have changed," said Dr. Robert Dellavalle, a Denver dermatologist who has testified before the Legislature, asking for a full ban.
Also optimistic this year is Jodi Duke, a 37-year-old melanoma survivor from Aurora. She says emerging evidence on the dangers of youth tanning bed use has helped change lawmakers' minds from previous years.
"There was a lot of talk about nannying people. That was a fair argument at the time, but I think we've come a long way," said Duke, who started going to tanning beds at 16 and was diagnosed with cancer two years later.
This year's ban is scheduled for its first hearing in a House committee Feb. 6, but even if the tanning-bed industry doesn't fight the ban, not all health activists are thrilled with the proposal.
The Colorado chapter of the American Cancer Society, for example, doesn't like the exemption even for youth use with a doctor's prescription.
R.J. Ours of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network in Denver said doctors who prescribe light therapy for certain skin conditions perform the therapy in their offices, instead of sending patients to a commercial indoor tanning salon.
"I would say this is our favorite bill that we can't yet support," Ours said with a laugh.
The sponsor of the bill, Democratic Rep. Cherilyn Peniston, said she's likely to amend her bill to remove the doctor exemption.
"If I take that out, I could really get the American Cancer Society on board for the first time this year, so that's likely to come out," Peniston said.
She was optimistic about the bill's prospects this year.
"We are killing our kids by frying them in tanning salons," Peniston said. "People understand the gravity of this, because we've been working on it for years and years."