DES MOINES — Iowans under 18 years of age would be banned from commercial tanning salons under a bill that narrowly won bipartisan approval by the Iowa Senate on Tuesday.
Proponents of Senate File 232, which passed by a 26-23 margin, said restricting use of tanning devices to people age 18 or older could save lives and protect Iowa’s teens “from the proven and serious health hazards of indoor tanning” heading into the spring prom season for high school students.
“We’ve got to, as state legislators, stand up and make sure that we ban this dangerous practice that can be just as dangerous in some ways as youth smoking,” said Sen. Bill Dotzler, D-Waterloo, the bill’s floor manager. “We have an opportunity here, ladies and gentlemen of the Senate, to maybe stop a few cases, not all of them, but we can stop a few cases by the passage of this legislation and maybe save some lives in the state of Iowa.”
Four GOP senators joined 22 Democrats in supporting the measure, while three Democrats and 20 Republicans opposed it.
Research shows overexposure to the ultraviolet light in tanning beds at a young age greatly increases the chances of developing skin cancer later in life. People who use tanning beds before the age of 35 increase their chances of getting skin cancer nearly 60 percent, according to the American Cancer Society.
“The link between indoor tanning, especially for young people, and the increased risk of developing deadly skin cancer is truly staggering,” said Jen Schulte, a Cancer Society official in Iowa, in applauding the Senate action. “Considering the clear health benefits of this bill along with its strong bipartisan and public support, we believe the House should take up this bill as soon as possible.”
A House committee passed a similar tanning bill last month, but the bill has not been scheduled for floor debate.
Sen. Mark Chelgren, R-Ottumwa, tried unsuccessfully to amend the Senate bill to allow an exception for 16- and 17-year-olds with parental consent to have access to commercial tanning booths. He argued that parents and their teenage children should be able to decide whether they deem the activity to be appropriate.
“This isn’t going to stop somebody from buying their own bed,” said Chelgren, whose amendment lost by an 18-31 margin. “This doesn’t stop that. It means the cool kids with parents who have the money and want to invest it, they’re going to tan unregulated.”
Many Iowa tanning salons already require parental permission.
Nine states and the District of Columbia ban indoor tanning for minors. Iowa is one of only nine states with no age restrictions on minors tanning, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. The only age restriction in Iowa’s law says operators must be at least 16.
In other action Tuesday, senators approved a measure 40-9 making changes to Iowa election laws after turning back an attempt to amend Senate File 415 to bar straight-party voting on Iowa ballots.
Chelgren, who offered the amendment that failed 23-26, called the practice “fundamentally unfair” to independents and third-party candidates.
“I think the monopoly for the large parties should end,” he said. “I think it’s time that the traditional Republican and Democrat dominance in politics, we should have the confidence to open up the flood gates and let people of different perspectives to come in.”
Sen. Tom Courtney, D-Burlington, the bill’s floor manager, said voting straight ticket is optional and a choice that voters should have.
“There’s nothing on the ballot in Iowa that says you must vote straight ticket,” he said. “It’s says you may vote straight ticket if you so desire. I trust Iowans are smart enough to figure that out.”
Also Tuesday, senators voted 40-9 to allow convenience stores that hold a class C liquor permit to sell “growlers,” vessels under 72 ounces that are filled with craft or microbrew beer that are sealed and taken by purchasers for off-premise consumption. Sen. Jeff Danielson, D-Cedar Falls, said provisions of Senate File 456 honored Iowa’s three-tiered system for regulating alcoholic beverages while finding a middle ground for a new, emerging beer market.