The Pennsylvania State Senate has approved a bill regulating commercial tanning salons, restricting the use of tanning booths by minors, and requiring parental consent and a doctor's written permission for their use by anyone younger than 14 years old.

Following on a February 2011 effort by the American Academy of Pediatrics for tanning booths to be off limits for all minors, Lehigh County State Senator Pat Brown's legislation, Senate Bill 349 – the Indoor Tanning Regulation Act – seeks to regulate rather than ban such use by minors.

While Browne feels that there is a need to limit the exposure of minors to excessive radiation, he feels that an outright ban is unnecessary.

"I think we can trust families to make the appropriate decision. I believe that better empowering parents to the use of these facilities by their children and allowing that to happen is the way to go," said Browne who is the lead sponsor of the legislation.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, at least 31 states regulate indoor tanning by minors, and California bans all minors from using tanning beds. Earlier this month, California passed a bill banning anyone under the age of 18 from using an indoor tanning facility. This strictest law regulating tanning, which will go into effect in January, 2012, replaces an 1988 law which allowed minors 14 and older to tan with the permission of a parent or guardian.

This legislation will, in the name of safety, increase costs to the Commonwealth, the tanning salons and the consumers. To help with inspections and enforcement, Browne's bill calls for an annual $300 per salon licensing fee, and if the salon has more than 10 tanning beds, an additional fee of $20 per device would be charged.

First year start-up costs are estimated at $1.2 million with an estimated half of the cost paid for by license fees from approximately 2,000 tanning facilities.

In addition, tanning salons would be required to post signs that include the manufacturer's instructions and warnings related to overexposure, sunbathing after exposure, protective eyewear, and medications or cosmetics, a Department of Health telephone number to report an injury, a statement "If You Do Not Tan In The Sun, You Are Unlikely To Tan From Use Of An Ultraviolet Lamp Or Sunlamp," and "Danger Ultraviolet Radiation" in letters at least one-half inch high.

The World Health Organization has recognized the relationship of overexposure to ultraviolet radiation as a cause of melanoma – a potentially fatal form of skin cancer, as well as cataracts, suppression of the immune system and premature skin aging. The WHO does not recommend the use of UV tanning booths for cosmetic reasons.

Five years ago, Sal Cannarella, proprietor of Alice & Sal's Hair Designs & Tanning in Penn Forest Township, installed three tanning beds in his shop. Due to increased demand, he increased the number of units to six-with five lie-down horizontal beds and one stand-up vertical booth.

Cannarella estimates that tanning accounts for about 30 percent of his business, and helps to bring in new customers for his salon services.

During the year, most of his customers are adults. They use the tanning equipment several times a week for up to 20 minutes each session. He recommends that light-skinned first-time customers start at four minutes, and as their tan increases, increase the amount of time. Although the customer has ultimate control over the tanning machine's timer, Cannarella monitors the time in the booth and will knock on the door to remind the customer if they are exceeding the recommended time.

The only time teens come to use the tanning booths is in the weeks before a big school dance. Then, they may come every day the shop is open for up to three months. The youngest person that Sal remembers coming for a tanning session was 15 years old, and the teen had to have signed parental permission.

Cannarella said that both men and women use the tanning booths.

"They get relaxation, peace of mind, the tan, and more vitamin D," he said. "And they are more cheerful from more sun."