Photographer: Robert Gauthier/LA Times via Getty Images

Tanning Industry May Lose Teen Customers

FDA proposes rule barring minors five years after panel recommended it.

The $3 billion U.S. tanning industry is about to take a serious hit. So will skin cancer, the FDA hopes.

The Food and Drug Administration said Friday it wants to stop kids under 18 from indoor tanning. In a proposed rule, the agency seeks to ban salon operators from allowing minors to buy tanning bed time, and require adults sign a document acknowledging the risk before they drop their clothes and strap on goggles.

It's the U.S. government's toughest action yet to curb the use of tanning devices the World Health Organization has dubbed carcinogenic to humans. Eleven states and Washington D.C. already ban minors from indoor tanning, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. 

"Indoor tanning is designed to give you high levels of UV radiation in a short period," said Vasum Peiris, chief medical officer for pediatrics at the FDA's Center for Devices and Radiological Health. "The adverse impact of this public health risk on our children is especially concerning.''

The rule change, if finalized, would wipe out a huge chunk of the tanning industry's revenue: between $500 million and $825 million each year for a  decade, according to the FDA's estimate.  

 Salon operators who violate the new rule could be punished by seizure of tanning beds, civil penalties and even prosecution. The rule wouldn't apply to personal use of sun lamps or other tanning devices at home. 

Consumers under the age of 18 represent about 6.7 percent of the tanning industry's revenue in 2015, according to market researcher IBISWorld. Demand from minors has fallen, however, as state bans spread.

About 17 percent of teens have tried indoor tanning, the American Academy of Dermatology says. The practice may result in as many as 400,000 cases of skin cancer a year in the U.S., according to research cited by the group.

“The FDA’s long-awaited tanning device proposals are an important step that will help to reduce skin cancer diagnoses and deaths," the American Cancer Society's Cancer Action Network said in a statement.

Indoor tanning salons take in about $3 billion annually in the U.S., according to IBISWorld.

The American Suntanning Association said in an e-mailed statement that the decision about whether minors should be allowed to tan "is best left to parents, not the federal government." The group also disputed the agency's assessment of the risk of tanning.


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