Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) said she supports the tanning tax in the Affordable Care Act but advocated for the federal government to go further by outlawing indoor tanning for minors.
“We need to keep pushing for a national ban, in my view, on the use of tanning devices by children. As on so many issues, the states are showing the way. At least 41 of our states regulate the use of tanning facilities by minors – nine have already banned their use altogether by anyone under the age of 18 – that’s where we need to go,” she said at a panel discussion on Capitol Hill about the hazards and allure of indoor tanning.
“If you’re engaged in a project, you want to take on a mission, my friends, this is it because it’s not about a road or a bridge or a park or the issues we deal with here, you know, planes and whatever the hell it is, excuse me, this is about health and life.”
DeLauro said she has been pushing the FDA to move forward on the issue.
“We are making progress. Almost exactly a year ago, the FDA issued an order requiring tanning devices to get clearance before they can be marketed to the public. The same order required a warning on each device stating explicitly that it should not be used by those under the age of 18,” she said. “These are positive moves. I wish it didn’t take so long because in the interim we lose lives.”
DeLauro was asked if she thinks the 10 percent excise tanning tax in Obamacare is an appropriate way to deter indoor tanning.
“Yes, it is,” she replied.
She dismissed criticism from some Republican lawmakers who argue that the tax is discriminatory because it singles out one industry.
“It’s a public health issue,” DeLauro said, adding that indoor tanning beds are “killing” people.
Compared to other issues being debated in Congress at the moment, DeLauro said, “This one is a matter of life and death.”
According to Dr. Sherry Pagoto, associate professor at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, skin cancer is on the rise.
“Tanning really is the new smoking,” she said at the event.
Through her CDC-funded research, Pagoto said she found tanning beds on many college campuses.
DeLauro said advocates and lawmakers have to keep up the pressure on colleges to eliminate tanning beds.
Dr. Elizabeth Tanzi, the co-director of the Washington Institute of Dermatologic Laser Surgery in Washington, said one session of indoor tanning increases a person’s risk of contracting skin cancer between 59 percent and 75 percent.
“We really do need to get the word out,” she said. “I’m always surprised how many people still don’t realize that tanning salons can cause cancer – not only can, do cause cancer.”
Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.), who lost his father-in-law to melanoma, urged the public not to believe anyone that says tanning beds do not cause cancer.
“So many people are being affected by this,” he said at the event. “We have to make sure that people understand that jumping into a tanning booth is the equivalent of lighting up a cigarette.”