JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. —
A Joplin business owner spoke last week in opposition to legislation that would impose a fine on tanning salons if they don’t get parental consent before allowing minors to use their tanning beds.
Sponsored by Rep. Gary Cross, R-Lee’s Summit, the bill would require parents to annually appear at the tanning salon and give their approval if someone under the age of 17 wants to go there to get a tan.
Randy Burleson, owner of Club Tan, 909 S. Range Line Road, told lawmakers during a hearing of the Senate Financial and Governmental Organizations and Elections Committee that his salon has required parental consent for people under the age of 16 for the past three years, and he noted that many others in the industry have begun to do the same.
No vote was taken on the measure in the Senate committee last week.
“I think for the most part, small businesses want to do the right thing,” Burleson said.
Sun lamps and related products, including tanning beds, now are regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. They must have labels alerting customers to recommended exposure levels, and how certain medications and cosmetics increase sensitivity to ultraviolet light. They now are not regulated by the state.
The bill, which passed out of the House by a 98-46 vote earlier this year, would make the businesses subject to a $500 fine for each violation. The level of the fine was a concern for Sen. David Sater, R-Cassville, who thought it was too high.
Cross, when the bill was heard by the House, downplayed concerns by some other Republicans that the fine would be a burden on businesses.
“It’s not about regulating people,” Cross said. “It is about protecting our young, innocent youth.”
Burleson said he supported the parental consent component, but he suggested that the bill should be changed to include an educational grace period for tanning salon owners with a reduced or eliminated fee for a first offense.
“If their objective is to make sure people are informed and consent is given in an informed way, then let’s pass a bill that actually accomplishes that instead of punishing small businesses that may not be aware of the law and may have many violations for which they might receive an exorbitant fee,” he said. “Give the guy a chance. If they messed up, let’s get it fixed and move forward.”
Jeff Howell, general counsel for the Missouri State Medical Association, testified that he did not think any part of the bill was “burdensome.”
“Every year, the General Assembly passes bills requiring physician offices to hand out information to patients, or gather their signatures on various forms,” he said. “The consequences to these physician-owned small businesses are often overlooked or dismissed, but asking a tanning salon to collect parental consent once a year is a burden on small business?”
Howell said he knew of no other industry that had a sliding scale for penalties, as Burleson and others in the tanning industry wanted.
“An educational grace period, which has also been requested, would also be a first,” he said.
Burleson took issue with the characterization of tanning beds as a cancer-causing agent. He likened UV exposure in a tanning bed to that from the sun.
“When you burn your skin through overexposure, you damage your skin whether you’re in the sun or a tanning salon — you’re being exposed to UV,” he said. “If you’re smart about it, no problem.”
ALL OF THE LEGISLATORS in the House of Representatives from Southwest Missouri favored the bill, which must still be voted out of committee in the Senate.