The agency, though, isn’t going nearly as far as its advisory committee and the American Academy of Pediatrics would like. Instead of prohibiting teens from tanning in salons, the FDA is proposing to slap warning labels on the sun lamps stating that young people should not use these devices.
“It provides a warning on the consequences,” the FDA said in a statement, namely that “there is a 75 percent increase in the risk of melanoma, the deadliest type of skin cancer,” in those who have used a tanning bed just once, and that risk rises with each use.
Excessive indoor tanning is probably behind the rise in deadly melanomas in both teenage girls and young women under 30 who make up more than two-thirds of tanning salon users, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. That’s likely because the doses of UV rays emitted from tanning units may be to 10 to 15 times higher than that of the midday summer sun, which the FDA called “an intense exposure not found in nature.”
Up until now, tanning beds have been classified as “class I” medical devices subject to scant regulations and little oversight, on par with tongue depressors and elastic bandages. The FDA is proposing to reclassify them as class II devices, which require a stronger safety review process before they’re approved and regular inspections to ensure they’re functioning properly.
“We believe the reclassification will not only strengthen oversight of sunlamp products, but also will ensure that consumers are better informed about and protected from this sort of exposure,” said FDA medical device expert Neil Ogden.
All of these changes will be presented as a proposed rule that will be open for public comments before the rule is finalized.
I’m guessing the Indoor Tanning Association, an industry group that represents tanning salon owners, will have quite a few criticisms. In a statement on Tuesday, the group said its members “embrace any label changes that will lead to a better understanding of the potential risks of overexposure.” But the group added that it is “concerned that the proposed requirements will burden our members with addition[al] unnecessary governmental costs in an already difficult economic climate.”
The federal health care law has added a 10 percent “sin” tax on tanning beds, but whether that has resulted in a decrease in the estimated 2.3 million teens who visit indoor tanning salons each year remains unknown.
A handful of states, including Vermont, New York, and New Jersey, have banned minors from using tanning beds, and Massachusetts is currently considering a bill, though the legislation has been put on hold for years. The state currently requires anyone under 18 to get written parental consent before tanning; those under 14 need to be accompanied by a parent or guardian.
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