UK Teen Tanning Bed Ban: Coming to America?

A new law fines teens found tanning in UK.

April 08, 2011, 1:44 PM

April 8, 2011— -- The bronzed cast of MTV's "The Jersey Shore" might not be amused. England and Wales have banned the use of tanning booths for those under 18 years of age, enforcing it with a fine up to $32,000.

This follows studies that have discovered that the rate of malignant melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, has tripled in the UK for those under the age of 35 since the seventies. On this side of the Atlantic, more than 30 states have laws restricting minors' access to indoor tanning beds. Still, on an average day, more than one million Americans use tanning salons.

"Tanning is an open invitation to developing skin cancer and other problems...we wouldn't let our child drive at 10, why expose them to the dangers of tanning as teens?" Cathi Hixson Pominski, a Tennessee viewer, told ABC News.

A study published in March in the American Journal of Public Health surveyed 6,000 teenagers ages 14 to 17 over a one-year period about their tanning habits. Researchers found that 17.1 percent of girls and 3.2 percent of boys used indoor tanning within that year. The study also showed that the same number of teens went tanning in states with laws that have age restrictions or require parental consent. Older teenage girls hit the tanning booths the most often.

"I don't tan anymore, but even though they are dangerous, people know this, so let them decide on their own. We are supposed to be 'The Land of the Free'," said ABC News viewer Debbi Dawson.

In the summer of 2009, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, part of the World Health Organization (WHO), placed tanning beds in its Class 1 carcinogen category, the same classification given to cigarettes, plutonium and ultraviolet radiation from the sun. Frequent tanners using new high-pressure sunlamps in the United States may receive as much as 12 times the annual UVA dose compared with the dose they receive from sun exposure.

"Banning tanning, although it theoretically makes sense, is a bit much," Adam Schreiber of New York told ABC News. "What about those who soak up rays on a beach or by a pool every day of the summer? Are they going to put a limit on how much time you can spend outside or an age limit to be able to sit in the sun? People know the risks. If they want to get tan, let them."

What do Doctors Think?

According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, over the past 31 years, more people have contracted skin cancer than all other cancers combined.

A ban might help parents who are trying to keep their kids off the tanning beds. Penny Casassa of New Jersey told ABC News, "Yes [they should enforce a ban here], then my daughter would not use those stupid tanning beds!"

However, Gray Pierce told us, "[its] another reason for the government to run our lives. We want tanning beds made illegal for a 16 year old to get a tan, but abortions are legal for them without a parent's consent? That's a health risk."

What is the Reaction Across the Pond?

Some in the U.K. aren't keen about their tanning law.

"I personally think it would be better to educate people at schools instead of enforcing a ban," London resident Hattie Murray told us. "People will always use fake IDs, etc. to get around laws."

Others agree with the new law. Noemie Deed, another England resident, told ABC News, "I think it's a good idea. Although it may not stop teenagers from using sunbeds, it is a good step in encouraging the options of spray tans/tanning lotions etc. I do agree, however, that teenagers need to be better educated on the dangers of sunbeds."

What do you think? Leave us a comment here, or visit us at the

World News with Diane Sawyer Facebook page


ABC News' Mikaela Conley and Kim Carollo contributed to this report.

ABC News Live

ABC News Live

24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events