Bill of the week: Tanning lamp dangers

Bill of the Week, a new feature in The Hill, highlights a recently introduced piece of legislation that might not make front-page news but otherwise catches the eye.

Title: Tanning Transparency and Notification Act 

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Number:  S. 2301

Sponsor: Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.)

Co-sponsor: Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.)

Date introduced: April 19

Summary: The bill aims to prevent people from getting cancer by using ultraviolet tanning lamps. It would provide consumers with warnings on the health risks of the lamps.

According to a statement from Reed’s office, the bill would “update and improve warning-label standards on tanning beds. Currently the warning on tanning beds is more than 100 words long and is often placed where it is not immediately visible, and [it] hasn’t been updated since 1979.”

Bill’s origin:  Reed said in a statement, “Studies show that prolonged exposure to ultraviolet light can increase the risk of skin cancer, and this legislation will make warning labels more visible and the dangers of indoor tanning more clear to consumers, especially young people. It is important for consumers to have the information they need to better protect themselves.”

Reed has also worked on legislation advocating for truthful labeling on sunscreen. Last year the FDA announced new regulations in testing sunscreen to prevent mislabeling.

Companion legislation:  Though not a companion bill, Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) introduced a similar piece of legislation last May, the Tanning Bed Cancer Control Act. Her bill goes a step further than Reed’s by imposing more stringent controls on ultraviolet tanning lamps.

What others say: John Overstreet, the executive director of the Indoor Tanning Association, said he thinks this bill is the result of a misunderstanding. 

“There’s a lot of misinformation about this industry,” he said. “My guess is this bill is based on some of that misinformation, and hopefully, if we get the chance to sit down and talk to them, we can clear some of that up.”

In a statement, Dr. Daniel Siegel, president of the American Academy of Dermatology Association (AADA), thanked the senators for introducing the legislation and urged that tanning beds be reclassified to more accurately reflect their danger. 

Siegel highlighted a 2011 AADA study that found that, “[D]espite having seen the warning labels which described the risks associated with indoor tanning, 70 percent of young women continued their tanning bed use.

 “While warning labels are an important component of deterrence, the reliance on warning labels alone, as S. 2301 does, is ineffective. The AADA remains hopeful that this legislation will be the first step in enacting more comprehensive federal regulations to reduce the future incidence of skin cancer and related healthcare costs.”

Extras: This isn’t the first time members of Congress have turned their attention to the indoor tanning industry. Congress passed a 10 percent tax on consumers who use tanning beds as part of its 2010 healthcare reform law. 

The mandate created a strange alliance; MTV reality television star Snooki and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) joined forces on Twitter to bash it. Congressional Republicans have since tried to repeal the tax, to no avail. 

To suggest a Bill of the Week, email Kris Kitto at kkitto@thehill.com.