New Jersey Ban on Teen Tanning Bed Use Appears To Have Little Effect: Study

Apparently teens have not been deterred from indoor tanning by a recent ban enacted in the state of New Jersey, according to the findings of a new study. 

Researchers from Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey and Rutgers School of Public Health indicate that there has been no drop in use of indoor tanning beds by youths under the age of 17 in New Jersey in recent years, raising questions about the effectiveness of the restriction on use of the facilities by minors. The findings of the study were published in the August issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.

The study used data from the 2012 and 2014 New Jersey Youth Tobacco Surveys, which included questions concerning tobacco-related topics as well as indoor tanning. More than 5,700 public school students grades 9 to 12 participated.

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Researchers were especially keen to compare findings from the 2012 survey to the 2014 survey after a ban on indoor tanning for teens under 17 years of age was enacted in New Jersey in October 2013. A number of other states followed suit shortly after and enacted similar bans as more evidence linking indoor tanning to skin cancer has emerged in recent years.

The findings indicate that there was no significant decline in indoor tanning rates among teens under 17. A total of 6.9 percent of students under 17 reported tanning indoors in the past year in the 2014 survey. That compares to 6.7 percent reported in 2012.

The rate of indoor tanning among teens in New Jersey has not varied much since the ban was enacted or since the FDA imposed stricter warning labels and hazard classifications on the indoor tanning equipment.

While the rate of use of tanning beds among females students remained steady, male students’ indoor tanning activity increased from 5.8 percent in 2012 to 8.6 percent in 2014. Researchers said this underscores a need for ongoing monitoring of indoor tanning facilities to ensure they are following the age restrictions.

“The fact that indoor tanning rates among New Jersey high school students under age 17 did not significantly decline after an age restriction was enacted is cause for concern and speaks to the need for ongoing surveillance of indoor tanning rates for this population,” Elliot J. Coups, PhD, lead author of the study and behavioral scientist at Rutgers Cancer Institute, said in a press release. “These results also highlight a need for continued monitoring of tanning facility operators to ensure they are adhering to the age restrictions put in place.”

The New Jersey teen tanning bed ban also does not apply to tanning activity in private homes. Researchers say this also should be addressed to properly protect teens.

The new data comes following research published in 2015 indicating indoor tanning use had decreased over the past few years nationwide following renewed awareness of skin cancer.

Indoor tanning exposes users to ultraviolet rays that can lead to skin cancer. Health experts say youths are particularly at risk. A 2014 study concluded teens and young adults who begin tanning at a young age are more likely to develop basal cell carcinoma and be diagnosed at younger age.

Indoor tanning also places teens at higher risk of developing melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. Research published earlier this year indicated tanning bed use increases the rate of melanoma among women under the age of 30 by a factor of six.

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